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The Heart of the Matter: Signs of Heart Attack & Stroke

(Posted on ChesterCountyMoms.com - February 21, 2013)

Heart Attack or Stroke?In honor of Heart Month, we're sharing what you need to know to identify a heart attack or stroke. Knowing what to do at the onset of symptoms can save a life - whether it's yours or someone else's. Let's begin by defining these serious situations and looking into their causes.


What is a heart attack? A heart attack occurs when your heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood. Arteries can become blocked over time by a buildup of cholesterol, making them hard and narrow. Blood is trying to squeeze through your arteries to provide your heart with the oxygen it needs - during a heart attack, plaque can rupture and form a clot. This clot blocks the blood flow to the heart, damaging the heart muscle.


A red flag for a heart attack is chest pain, so look out for chest pressure or a tight, "full" feeling in the center of your chest. Pain can also be felt in one or both arms, your back or your jaw. Other "something's wrong" symptoms include sweating, nausea, fainting and shortness of breath.


Women are reporting different signs of heart attacks that include unusual fatigue according to American Heart Association. It's normal for us all to feel a little exhausted now and again, but listen to your body. If you feel that something's not right, act right away. Other female-focused symptoms are clamminess, heartburn-like feeling, abdominal pain and lightheadedness.

Okay, well what is a stroke? A stroke mimics a heart attack in that blood supply is still limited. This time, though, the brain is not receiving the oxygen it needs, not your heart. When the brain doesn't have oxygen, cells begin to die. Having prompt treatment for a stroke can help to reduce the amount of damage the brain sustains.


Signs of a stroke are different than those of a heart attack. A person may have trouble walking, feel dizzy or stumble. Other problems show in a person's speech and comprehension; confusion, word-slurring and trouble understanding others are common symptoms. Numbness or paralysis of the face, one arm or one leg as well as vision disruptions can all point to a stroke.

What do I do if I think I'm having a heart attack or stroke? Whether it's you or someone else experiencing symptoms, pick up the phone, not the keys. You should never drive yourself to the hospital, and, even for a loved one, a ride in an ambulance is the way to go. Here's why calling 9-1-1 is a smart thing to do:

  • Driving while experiencing these symptoms is dangerous. If you were to become unconscious, you'd risk further harm to you and others on the road.
  • Having the ambulance come to you is the fastest way to receive proper care. The Chester County Hospital is given your information wirelessly while you're on your way - this means a team is ready for you as soon as you arrive.
  • The sooner you receive care, the less damage is done to your body. Emergency medical technicians can administer life-saving care at your door rather than waiting to get to the Emergency Department. Minutes count with the onset of symptoms, so don't hesitate to call 9-1-1 even if your symptoms seem to have subsided.

Celebrate Heart Month by sharing these signs of heart attack and stroke with the ones you love to keep happy and healthy! To learn more about a heart healthy lifestyle, join us on February 28 for some guidance on how to reduce your risk factors and how to get started. Enjoy a light dinner while you learn some healthful habits! Here are the details:

Turn Your Health Around with a Heart Healthy Lifestyle
Presenters: Kim Knipe, Registered Dietitian & Susan Pizzi, Registered Nurse
Date + Time: February 28, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: The Chester County Hospital, Conference Rooms A&B
Fee: $15 for dinner and materials
Register: Call 610.431.5644 or visit ChesterCountyHospital.org/wellness

Last Updated: 2/25/2013