In Canada more than 70,000 heart attacks occur annually. More than 19,000 people die every year as a result.

Cardiovascular disease is still a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Canada so learning more about heart health and how to manage heart health emergencies should be on everyone's agenda.

What is a Heart Attack?

The technical term is a myocardial infarct. Myocardial refers to the cardiac muscle (yes the heart is a muscle) and infarct refers to tissue death. As a result of the lack of blood to the heart, part of the heart muscle dies from lack of oxygen.

Like every muscle in the body, the heart muscle must receive oxygen. The harder it works the more oxygen it requires. It should come as no surprise to anyone that lack of oxygen will lead to tissue death. When the blood vessels that supply the heart cannot deliver enough oxygen to meet the demand of the myocardial muscle it will die.

Heart attack symptoms include:

Death. This may sound awful but many people simply drop dead from a myocardial infarct without any warning at all that they have a serious medical condition developing.

Pain is the usual presenting symptom when a muscle is deprived of the oxygen it needs to function. Heart muscle pain is usually called "chest pain". Pain, however, is a subjective symptom so what one perceives to be pain another might perceive to be "pressure" or "heaviness". Sometimes the pain will radiate into the neck, jaw, or arms with the left arm being the most common. Because of the subjective nature of pain, many people do not recognize chest pain as one of the signs of heart attack and dismiss it as something else like indigestion, or a muscle cramp such as a "stitch".

Shortness of breath. It stands to reason that if the heart muscle cannot function then the heart cannot supply needed oxygen rich blood to the rest of the body. This leads to increased respiration as the body attempts to fulfill oxygen demands.

Sweating, pale color in the face or blue around the lips, light-headedness and nausea are all indications that the body is desperately trying to cope with an overall lack of oxygen.

Denial. The most classic and dangerous of all the heart attack symptoms is the denial of the potential significance of the event. Some people may try to treat their "indigestion" with antacids, others think that they simply need a rest, or refuse to seek help for fear of being seen as weak. The five most dangerous words associated with chest pain are "Maybe it will go away".

Denial is one of the major signs of a heart attack and is such a significant problem that a recent Canadian study of 487 heart attack patients found that more than one-third of them got to the hospital by themselves including driving their own car and taking the bus.

Don't let denial be the heart attack symptom that prevents you or your loved one from receiving timely medical care for this potentially fatal medical condition. Life saving treatments are possible and the best outcomes are achieved when they are administered promptly before complications make the treatment less effective.

If you are experiencing chest pain it could be one of the signs of a heart attack and you should take it seriously. If it is accompanied by any other heart attack symptoms listed here, call 911.

Better yet get serious about heart health before you get chest pain and get started on a heart healthy program of diet and exercise. The research on the contribution of exercise to heart health is astounding and it is never too late to get started. Even if you have already had a heart attack you can improve your health and the quality of your life with a medically supervised exercise program.

Author's Bio: 

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