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Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers from a heart attack — and in that same 40 seconds, someone else suffers from a stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But these diseases have something else in common: They are more treatable when detected early.
Recognizing the following symptoms may help you to know whether you’re having a heart attack or a stroke — and it may just save your life.
Heart attack symptoms
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women, so knowing the indications of a heart attack is absolutely crucial. Though symptoms run the gamut and vary between men and women, here are some classic warning signs, courtesy of the American Heart Association.
Perhaps the first and most obvious symptom of a heart attack is chest pain. This pain may range from a feeling of fullness, to uncomfortable pressure or a squeezing sensation. Even if chest pain comes and goes, it may still be an indication of a heart attack and should not be taken lightly.
Upper body discomfort
The chest isn’t the only part of the upper body to exhibit warning signs of a heart attack. Any discomfort in one or both arms may indicate problems as well as pain in the jaw, stomach, back or neck.
Lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting
Many heart attack victims mistakenly believe they suffer from the flu, due to symptomatic similarities. The heart association reports this is true for women, in particular, as they seem to more commonly exhibit signs of lightheadedness or vomiting than men.
Shortness of breath
Being short of breath is normal after vigorous exercise, but if you find yourself gasping for air by simply walking up the stairs or doing no physical activity at all, this could be a danger sign. If shortness of breath is accompanied by any of the symptoms mentioned above, call 911 immediately.
Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of disability among adults, according to the CDC. The good news is that it is treatable — and even preventable — if you know what signs to look for.
Any sudden numbness, confusion, slurred speech, lack of coordination or severe headache can be a warning sign. However, the National Stroke Association provides a convenient acronym for remembering and identifying the most common symptoms of stroke:
F – Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the mouth droop down?
A – Arms. When the person lifts both arms, does one arm drop slightly?
S – Speech. Give the person a simple phrase to repeat. Is his or her speech strange or slurred?
T – Time. If any of the above symptoms are found, call 911 immediately.
With stroke, time is of the essence. If a stroke victim receives treatment within 90 minutes of the first symptom, they are three times more likely to recover with little or no disability, according to the American Stroke Association.
While heart attack and stroke symptoms may differ from one another, their prevention is similar. Both may be avoided by implementing healthy lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, being active, not smoking, eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and keeping blood pressure under control.
If you or a loved one exhibit one or more of these conditions, it’s important to seek emergency medical help right away. To check up on your heart health, visit Steward Health Care today to find a provider in your area.