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Jones Regional Medical Center Urgent Care - Anamosa

1795 Highway 64 East
Anamosa, IA 52205

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UnityPoint Clinic - Express (Lindale)

153 Collins Road Northeast
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

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UnityPoint Clinic - Express (Peck's Landing)

1940 Blairs Ferry Rd.
Hiawatha, IA 52233

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UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care - Marion

2992 7th Avenue
Marion, IA 52302

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UnityPoint Clinic Urgent Care - Westside

2375 Edgewood Road Southwest
Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

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Recognizing Heart Attack Warning Signs and Risk Factors

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs, in most cases, when a vessel supplying the heart muscle with blood and oxygen becomes completely blocked. The vessel has become narrowed by a slow buildup of fatty deposits, made mostly of cholesterol. When a clot occurs in this narrowed vessel, it completely blocks the supply of blood to the heart muscle. That part of the muscle will begin to die if the individual does not immediately seek medical attention.

Heart attacks have beginnings. These "beginnings" occur in over 50 percent of patients. More importantly, if recognized in time, these "beginnings" can be treated before the heart is damaged. 85 percent of heart damage occurs within the first two hours of a heart attack. There are warning signs and risk factors associated with heart attacks in men and women. 

Know What to Look for with Heart Attack

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Each year, approximately 1.2 million Americans suffer a heart attack, and nearly one-third of these individuals die, many before they reach the hospital.

People often dismiss heart attack warning signs, such as chest pain, and think they have heartburn or a pulled muscle. Many people wait too long before getting help. Recognize the symptoms of a heart attack.

Frequent Signs of a Heart Attack

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest. The discomfort lasts for more than a few minutes or it may go away and come back. The discomfort may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. 
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This may include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath may occur with or before chest discomfort
  • Other symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness 
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Anxiety

These symptoms may come and go until finally becoming constant and severe. Treatments are most effective when they occur in the early stages of chest pain.

Early Heart Attack Symptoms

Not every heart attack displays the same symptoms. In fact, many people ignore the early signs of a heart attack. Unfortunately, when these early signs are ignored, we miss a "window of opportunity" to prevent the attack before any heart damage can occur. The following signs and symptoms are ones to be aware of in yourself or in your family members:
  • Shortness of breath without exertion
  • Heartburn or burning in the chest
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Anxiety or a feeling of impending doom

Women and Heart Disease

Women are unique and so are their hearts. Many are unaware that heart attacks are the leading cause of death for women as well as men. Although heart attack risk is the same for both genders, women's bodies often respond differently than men's. Women don't always have pain in their arm or chest when having a heart attack. 

Symptoms women may experience during a heart attack include: 

  • Feeling out of breath
  • Pain that runs along the neck, jaw or upper back
  • Nausea, vomiting or indigestion
  • Unexplained sweating or dizziness
  • Sudden, overwhelming fatigue

Women are also less likely than men to believe they're having a heart attack and more likely to delay seeking emergency treatment. 

The most important thing you can do? Trust your body. If you think something is wrong, call 911 immediately.

PODCAST EPISODE: Women's Heart Health
Dr. Laila Payvandi, St. Luke's Heart Care Clinic, joins Dr. Arnold to discuss women's heart health, how women's symptoms differ from men's, possible disparities in heart healthcare for men and women, and more.

Understand Your Risk for Heart Attack

The following risk factors have been linked to a higher incidence of heart attack and should be addressed and eliminated. If you, or someone you care about, struggles with any of these risks, talk to your doctor about ways to remove these behaviors before they have a chance to impact your health.

  • Increasing age: About 82 percent of people who die of heart disease are 65 or older.
  • Gender: Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women and typically have attacks earlier in life.
  • Heredity: Children of parents with heart disease are more likely to develop it themselves.
  • Smoking: Smokers' risk of developing heart disease is two to four times that of nonsmokers.
  • High blood cholesterol: As blood cholesterol rises, so does the risk of heart disease.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure increases the heart's workload.
  • Physical inactivity: An inactive lifestyle is a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Obesity and overweight: People who have excess body fat - especially around the waist - are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease.
  • Stress: Some scientists have noted a relationship between heart disease risk and stress.

Source: American Heart Association

Tools for Identifying Heart Disease Earlier

St. Luke's offers two opportunities to learn more about your heart health, Heart Check and the $99 Heart Scan.

  • St. Luke's Heart Check is a series of five tests to assess your heart, vascular and stroke health. The cost for all five tests plus a consultation with a St. Luke's heart care expert is $195. A comprehensive blood test is also available for $40.

  • St. Luke's developed Heart Scan to speed up the process of finding heart disease. We use this screening to identify plaque in your coronary arteries and assess your heart's health. There are no injections, treadmills or pre-test fasting. The cost is $99.

PODCAST EPISODE: Heart Attack Warning Signs
Dr. Todd Langager, cardiologist at St. Luke's Heart Care Clinic, joins Dr. Arnold to discuss heart attack warning signs, differences in warning signs for men and women, the importance of getting care quickly and more.

PODCAST EPISODE: Know Your Numbers to Prevent Heart Disease
Dr. Richard Kettelkamp, St. Luke's Cardiology, returns to the podcast to discuss knowing your numbers to prevent heart disease. He and Dr. Arnold discuss blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and much more.

PODCAST EPISODE: Heart Health and Wellness from an ER Doctor's Perspective
Dr. Ryan Sundermann, ER physician, joins Dr. Dustin Arnold, chief medical officer, to discuss heart health and wellness from an ER doctor's perspective.