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Heart attack

A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked. This can result in part of the heart muscle dying or getting damaged.
The more time that passes without restored blood flow, the more severe the damage is to the heart. Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the main cause of heart attacks. A less common cause is a severe spasm of a coronary artery, which can also prevent blood supply from reaching the heart. Heart attacks are also called myocardial infarctions.
Heart attacks are the number one killer of Americans; therefore, surveillance of heart attacks in the U.S. is essential.
CDC's National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network and each of the tracking states contribute to surveillance efforts by collecting and publishing heart attack data in a central location online. Utah Tracking publishes data on:
  • Heart attack hospitalizations
  • Inpatient hospital discharges

Tracking heart disease is important to help public health professionals:
  • Examine trends over time
  • Identify any seasonal patterns
  • Assess geographic differences
  • Evaluate differences in heart disease by age, gender, race, and ethnicity
  • Determine populations in need of targeted interventions
Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.
According to the CDC, about 805,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. Of these cases, 605,000 are the first instance of a heart attack and 200,000 are the second or more instance.

The environment can increase your risk for a heart attack.
In addition to a person's overall health, the amount of pollution in the air and a person's exposure to the air pollution can influence the environmental risk for heart attacks. Studies have shown long-term exposure to air pollution can accelerate plaque buildup in the artery walls, also known as atherosclerosis, increasing the risk for heart attacks.

Not all heart attacks happen as depicted on TV or in movies.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports 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 pain or 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 pain or discomfort can feel like an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, 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 shoulders.
  • Shortness of breath: This often comes along with chest pain or discomfort, but it can also occur before chest pain or discomfort.

Signs of a Heart Attack
If you 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 to the sufferer.
The primary risk factors for heart attack are attributed to lifestyle and genetics:
  • Family history of heart attacks
  • High blood pressure
  • Tobacco use
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Studies have found that outdoor air pollution also increases risk of heart attack. Long-term exposure to air pollution can accelerate plaque buildup in the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis, increasing the risk of heart attack. Investigators have found that the higher the exposure level, the faster atherosclerosis progresses.
Here are a few ways you can limit your environmental risk of having a heart attack:
  • Regularly check the Utah Air Quality Index (AQI) to avoid overexposure to air pollution.
  • Plan activities when and where pollution levels are lower, usually in the morning and evening.
  • Adjust activity level based on the AQI.
  • Exercise away from roads and highways where pollution is usually worse.
  • Do easier outdoor activities if possible. If you must do strenuous activities outdoors, go slowly.

You can reduce your risk of heart attack further by making lifestyle changes:


Program websites

Number of heart attack hospitalizations

Crude rates of heart attack hospitalizations

Age-adjusted rates of heart attack hospitalizations (Age 35+ only)

Utah Tracking receives inpatient hospitalization and emergency department visit records from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Healthcare Statistics.

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The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Fri, 14 June 2024 6:08:42 from Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Fri, 29 Jul 2022 10:25:07 MDT