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Spotting Signs of Heart Attack During American Hearth Month

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Tuesday, February 7, 2023   

February is American Heart Month, and experts stressed it is important to know the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

According to UnitedHealthcare, heart attacks occur when clogged arteries block blood flow to the heart, while cardiac arrest means the heart is not beating due to an electrical malfunction and subsequent abnormal heartbeat.

Dr. Jim Liu, a cardiologist at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, explained common symptoms include chest pain, but said people often can experience more subtle changes.

"People can feel more of a chest with comfort, whether it's pressure, tightness or a burning sensation," Liu pointed out. "Patients may often feel short of breath, break out in cold sweat, feel nauseated or get sick to their stomach."

In 2017, more than 28,000 Ohioans died from heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For both conditions, it's best to call 911 and immediately perform CPR, which involves chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing.

Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare, said starting CPR quickly can mean the difference between life or death.

"You can start to have brain death within about three minutes or so and irreversible damage within eight minutes after the heart stops beating," Johar explained. "If you can start something prior to that, there's a tremendous chance of improvement, and almost a miraculous improvement in many cases."

According to the American Heart Association, people performing high-quality CPR should apply chest compressions of adequate rate and depth and minimize interruptions, avoiding leaning on the person, ensure proper hand placement, and avoid excessive ventilation.

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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