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Heart Attack

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when a section of the heart muscle dies or gets damaged because of reduced blood supply. The more time that passes without restoration of blood flow, the more serious the damage is to the heart. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the main cause of heart attack. A less common cause is a severe spasm of a coronary artery, which can also prevent blood supply from reaching the heart.
Heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) are the primary killer of Americans. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, each year, about 790,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these cases, 580,000 are a first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack. Furthermore, about 15% of people who have a heart attack will die from it.

If you know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and think you or someone near you may be having a heart attack, dial 9-1-1 and seek immediate assistance. The longer you wait, the more damage may occur.
Not all heart attacks begin with the sudden, crushing chest pain as depicted on TV or in movies. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports that one-third of patients who had heart attacks reported no chest pain.

Heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person. The five major symptoms of a heart attack are:
  • Chest pain or discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, pain, heartburn, or indigestion and can range from mild to severe.
  • Discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint: This may also include breaking out in a cold sweat or feeling nauseous.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, or shoulder
  • Shortness of breath: This often comes along with chest discomfort, but it can also occur before chest discomfort.

Signs of a Heart Attack
If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Acting fast can save a life.
The primary risk factors for heart attack are attributed to lifestyle and genetics:
  • Family history
  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Exposures to environmental contaminants

Furthermore, many studies have found that environmental air pollution also increases risk of heart attack. Even though air pollution is not one of the primary risk factors for heart attack, it is still a concern because so many people are exposed to air pollution throughout their lives. There are many kinds of air pollution, but particulate matter seems to be especially damaging to the heart and lungs. Sources of this type of air pollution include traffic, power plants, industrial combustion, metal processing and construction activities. There are also natural sources including windblown soil, forest fires, and molds.
You can reduce the risk of having a heart attack by losing weight, not smoking, exercising regularly, and having a healthy diet. People who are at risk for a heart attack should avoid strenuous activity in areas with elevated particulate air pollution, such as not jogging along a busy street. Regularly check the Utah Air Quality Index to avoid overexposure to air pollution.


The Utah EPHT Network receives admissions data from hospitals, obtained by the Emergency Department Encounter Database within the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services in the Utah Department of Health.

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The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site (http://epht.health.utah.gov). The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Wed, 19 September 2018 7:19:31 from Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: http://epht.health.utah.gov ".

Content updated: Tue, 13 Feb 2018 16:50:12 MST