Heart disease: know the risks, share the knowledge, save a life

Posted Jan. 25, 2011, at 12:04 p.m.

February often brings to mind thoughts of Valentine’s Day and images of hearts. But the heart is much more than a symbol – it is also the vital organ that pumps blood throughout our body. We tend to take our heart for granted until our own heart or that of a loved one stops working properly. Regrettably, more than 80 million American adults suffer from heart disease, stroke, or some other form of cardiovascular disease. In recognition of the need to continue the fight against heart disease, our nation’s No. 1 killer, each year the President designates February as American Heart Month. During Heart Month, we encourage you to take a few easy steps to join in our mission to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

How can you assist our mission?

1. Know the signs of a Heart Attack

Many people have the misconception that a heart attack comes on suddenly and intensely, as Hollywood depicts it on screen. However, many heart attacks come on gradually with mild pain or discomfort. Because of the preconceived notions, people who are actually experiencing symptoms of a heart attack may not know what is wrong with them.

Be aware that the presence of one or more of these symptoms may mean a heart attack is happening:

· Chest discomfort

The majority of heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of that chest that last for more than a few minutes or that goes away and returns. This discomfort may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

· Discomfort in other areas of the upper body

Symptoms of a heart attack can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

· Shortness of breath

This symptom may occur before, with or without chest discomfort.

· Other symptoms

Additional signs of a heart attack include experience cold sweats, nausea and light-headedness.

If these symptoms do not go away within five minutes, immediately seek help by calling 9-1-1 or the number to access emergency medical services.

2. Learn CPR

In one afternoon you could learn CPR and how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) — two skills that can help save the lives of victims of sudden cardiac arrest. That’s why the American Heart Association urges Americans to learn CPR and support community AED programs. The more prepared we are to treat sudden cardiac arrest, the more lives we can save. Take action for the people you love. Visit www.heart.org/CPRAndECC to find a CPR class in your neighborhood

3. Take Control of Your Heart Health

Check out our new website, Heart Hub for Patients, at http://www.hearthub.org . This new resource provides patients, families, and caregivers with tools and resources to manage your cardiovascular health. Use these online tools to understand your risks and treatment options. Visit our Health Centers to find a library of topic-focused articles, resources, and to view presentations and videos.

4. Get Involved

Join us in the fight against cardiovascular diseases and stroke! Visithttp://www.heart.org/maine to review the events available, locally and nationally, to see how you can participate and help us achieve our mission to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Our mission is to build healthier lives by preventing, treating and defeating these diseases – America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers. We fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health. To learn more or join us in helping all Americans, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit:www.heart.org.

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