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FOR RELEASE: March 16 , 2006
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Heart Attack is NOT a Natural Cause of Death
Recognize and React to the Signs of a Heart Attack

A heart attack is not a natural cause of death. Yet, cardiovascular disease is Oklahoma’s number one killer. The disease continues to devastate both men and women of all ages, regardless of race and ethnicity. If more people could recognize the warning signs, more people could react appropriately and survive a heart attack, according to officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH).

Cardiovascular diseases include high blood pressure, coronary heart disease (heart attack and angina, or chest pain), congestive heart failure, stroke, and congenital heart defects.

“Health-related behaviors contribute to the onset of heart disease as well as other related conditions, such as high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol,” said Adeline Yerkes, chief, OSDH Chronic Disease Service.

Yerkes said the OSDH encourages Oklahomans to pay more attention to their heart health by learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. “It is also important to react to the signs in a timely manner by calling 9-1-1 immediately,” Yerkes emphasized. “Medical care for a heart attack victim begins the moment 9-1-1 is called.”

Some heart attacks are sudden, but most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often, people affected aren't sure what is wrong and wait too long before getting help. Public health officials say to watch for the following warning signs that can mean a heart attack is occurring:
Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath. This feeling often comes along with chest discomfort. But it can occur before the chest discomfort.
Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

The OSDH encourages all Oklahomans to improve their heart health. “Your heart health can begin by having your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly to determine your risk for a heart attack. If you are at risk for a heart attack and medications are prescribed, take the medications as recommended by your health care provider. It is also important to maintain daily bouts of physical activity, improve fruit and vegetable intake, and eliminate tobacco use,” said Yerkes.

For more heart health information, talk with your health care provider, your local county health department, or contact the OSDH Chronic Disease Service at 405/271-4072.

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