February is American Heart Month, an annual nation-wide observance aiming to increase awareness about heart disease and raise funds for life-saving research. Heart disease affects over 27.6 million Americans and is the leading cause of death in the United States.
What’s more, approximately 735,000 heart attacks and 424,000 cardiac arrests occur within the population each year. In the event of a heart attack or cardiac arrest, acting quickly can save a life.
Signs of a heart attack
Heart attack symptoms are not always severe, can occur gradually and may vary between individuals. However, the following are common warning signs:
- Chest discomfort
- Unusual sensations elsewhere in the upper body
- Shortness of breath
If you notice these symptoms in yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately. While you wait for emergency services to arrive, chew a tablet of adult Aspirin and sit or lie down. Those who take nitroglycerin should take their regular dosage.
Signs of cardiac arrest
Cardiac arrest can affect anyone, even someone who’s young and in good health. It can occur suddenly and without warning. You can recognize a cardiac arrest by the following signs:
- Sudden collapse
- Unresponsiveness to touch or sound
- Abnormal or no breathing
In the event of cardiac arrest, call 911 immediately. Do not hesitate to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if one is available. Administer CPR by pressing hard and fast on the affected person’s chest. Do not stop until the person moves or help arrives.