You can help prevent or decrease your risk of heart disease by taking advantage of available tools, making simple lifestyle changes and managing other conditions.

Controllable risk factors for heart and vascular disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Heart attack warning signs

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense with clear warning signs, and there is little doubt what is happening.

But heart attacks can also begin slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often, affected individuals are unsure what is occurring and wait too long before getting help.

Here are important some signs and symptoms of heart attacks you should know:

  • Chest discomfort – Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body – This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath – This symptom is often accompanied by chest discomfort. It also sometimes occurs before chest discomfort.
  • Various other symptoms – Additional symptoms can include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Heart attacks in women

In women, heart attack symptoms may be severe from the start or mild at first and then gradually worsen. Women are more likely than men to have nausea, pain high in the abdomen or burning in their chests during a heart attack.

Heart attacks and their aftermath also tend to be more deadly in women. About one-quarter more women than men die within a year after having a heart attack. This may be at least partially due to the fact that women are generally older than men when they suffer heart attacks.

Additionally, women do not respond as well to many treatments usually prescribed during or after a heart attack.

These facts underscore the importance of getting attention immediately if a heart attack is suspected.

Dial 911 immediately if you suspect a heart attack.

Heart attacks – like strokes – are life-and-death emergencies. Every second counts.

If you see or have any of the listed symptoms, immediately call 911.

Not all these signs occur in every heart attack or stroke, and sometimes they may go away and return. If they occur, get help fast!

Today, heart attack and stroke victims can benefit from new medications and treatments. Clot-busting drugs can stop some heart attacks and strokes while they are in progress, reducing disabilities and saving lives.

However, in order to be effective, drugs and treatment must be given relatively quickly after heart attack or stroke symptoms first appear.

So don't delay – get help right away.