10 Surprising Facts About Heart Attacks (Infographic)

Woman holding heart.jpg

While hospitalization and deaths from heart disease are decreasing, it still remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Among the most serious heart diseases is heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction. Because of the sudden onset and damage that occurs quickly from a heart attack, it's important to act fast if you or a loved one suffers a heart attack. 

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked due to a clogged artery. This blockage prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If not reopened quickly, the section of the heart not receiving blood begins to die.

View the Infographic

10 Surprising Facts About Heart Attacks

1. Heart Attacks Happen Often

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes a heart attack happens every 40 seconds. Nearly 805,000 people have a heart attack every year in our country.

2. Many People Have a History of Heart Attack or Angina 

Almost 14 million Americans have a history of heart attack or angina. Like a heart attack, angina occurs when the vessels that supply blood to the heart narrow and prevent oxygen-rich blood from reaching the heart. Pain associated with angina can often feel like a heart attack, so it's recommended patients seek medical help immediately if they don't know what's causing their discomfort. These differences between a heart attack and angina are:

  • Pain associated with angina is usually not as severe as pain associated with a heart attack.
  • The pain associated with angina usually goes away in about 10 minutes.
  • Angina usually subsides after taking medicine, such as nitroglycerin, commonly used to treat chest pain.
  • Angina often occurs during exercise but goes away when resting.

3. You Could Have a "Silent" Heart Attack and Not Know It

Heart attacks don't always have recognizable symptoms. In fact, a heart attack can happen suddenly without a person knowing it. This is referred to as a silent heart attack. They account for 1 in 5 heart attacks. A silent heart attack is most common in diabetic patients and those over the age of 75. These individuals should visit their family physician and/or cardiologist on a regular basis to continually monitor their health.

4. Men and Women Can Have Different Heart Attack Symptoms

Men and women don't always experience the same heart attack symptoms. Men typically experience the following heart attack symptoms:

Women may experience different heart attack symptoms, including:

Most often, symptoms of a heart attack begin slowly and occur for hours, days or even weeks before the actual heart attack occurs. It's important to seek medical attention as soon as you notice symptoms of a heart attack. The quicker you're treated, the better the outcome for you.

5. Women are More Likely to Die of a Heart Attack Than Men

Research finds women have a 20% higher risk of heart failure after a heart attack than men (often because of ignoring early warnings).

6. Most Heart Attacks are First-Time Attacks

Of the nearly 805,000 people in the United States who experience a heart attack each year, 605,000 have their first heart attack. 

7. Heart Disease Care is Expensive

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates heart disease costs the United States $219 billion each year. These costs include care services, medications and premature death.

8. Aspirin Can Help Reduce Heart Attack Damage

At the first sign of chest discomfort, chewing an uncoated aspirin can help reduce the amount of damage to the heart muscles during a heart attack.

9. Heart Attack Death Can Happen Extremely Fast

Around half of heart attack deaths occur within one hour of the heart attack – outside a hospital. Minutes matter if you're  experiencing symptoms of a heart attack. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.

10. Heart Attacks Can Occur in Young People 

While more than 80% of people who die of coronary heart disease are at least 65 years old, heart attacks can happen much earlier in life. Risk factors for heart attacks in young people include:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Tobacco use
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Obesity
  • Lack of physicial activity

No matter what your age never ignore warning signs of heart attack.

Always Call 9-1-1 During the Event of a Heart Attack

If you do experience a heart attack, always call 9-1-1 and go to the emergency room using an ambulance. Relying on emergency responders for transportation means a quicker arrival time at the ER, allows the care team to be notified of your arrival and provides life-saving support on the way to the hospital.

Talk to Your Doctor About Your Heart Health

Lifestyle choices, early detection of signs of heart disease and staying on track with your annual wellness exams all contribute to preventing heart attacks. Talk to you doctor about a plan to keep your heart healthy during your visits.

Heart Attack Facts Infographic