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February is American Heart Month

American Heart Month, a federally designated event, is a great way to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved.

Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading global cause of death with more than 17.3 million deaths each year. That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because the arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly narrow from a buildup of fat or cholesterol and other substances (plaque).

Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies (every second counts). If you see or have any of the listed warning signs, immediately call 911 or your emergency response number. Not all these signs occur in every heart attack or stroke. Sometimes they go away and return. If some occur, get help fast!


  • Chest Discomfort - most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body - symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

  • Shortness of Breath – with or without chest discomfort.

  • Other Signs - may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.


Spot a stroke F.A.S.T.:

  • Face Drooping- Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.

  • Arm Weakness - Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

  • Speech Difficulty - Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?

  • Time to call 911 - If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately.


  • Sudden Loss of Responsiveness - No response to tapping on shoulders.

  • No normal breathing - The victim does not take a normal breath when you tilt the head up and check for at least five seconds.

Today, heart attack and stroke victims can benefit from new medications and treatments unavailable to patients in years past. For example, clot-busting drugs can stop some heart attacks and strokes in progress, reducing disability and saving lives. But to be effective, these drugs must be given relatively quickly after heart attack or stroke symptoms first appear. So again, don't delay and get help right away!


  • Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to learn your personal risk for heart disease.

  • Quit Smoking. Did you know that just one year after you quit, you’ll cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent?

  • Start an exercise program. Just walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.

  • Modify your family’s diet if needed.

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