Did You Know …?

Your heart has two sides that are separated by an inner wall. The right side pumps blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen. Then, oxygen-rich blood returns from the lungs to the left side of the heart, and the left side pumps it to the body, says the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Heed heart attack warning signs

Anyone who has chest pain that worsens over a five-minute period should call for emergency medical help, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

Worsening chest pain, especially if accompanied by shortness of breath, weakness or lightheadedness, can be a sign of a heart attack. The more quickly a person having a heart attack is treated, the more likely the person is to survive without long-term complications, the AHA says.

Other symptoms of a heart attack include pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach. Not everyone having a heart attack experiences typical symptoms. The more signs and symptoms you have, the more likely that you are having a heart attack.

Regional impact

Heart disease levels vary widely across the country, with the highest rates of coronary heart disease, heart attack and angina found in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Aspirin, cancer and your heart

Aspirin is often given early in the treatment of a heart attack, but generally not to cancer patients, because of fears of bleeding. A 2007 study in the journal Cancer, however, found that aspirin boosted the survival rate of cancer patients who had heart attacks.

Early detection

An electrocardiogram (EKG) is a simple, painless test that your health care provider can use to find out if you have heart problems. An EKG shows the heart's rhythm. The test also can show if the heart is not receiving enough blood (ischemia) and can sometimes show if the heart is abnormally enlarged, says the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Guidelines for women

New guidelines for preventing cardiovascular disease in women call for a long-term approach to reducing risk, the American Heart Association says. Among the new guidelines: All women should reduce saturated fat to less than 7 percent of total calories, and women who need to lose weight should exercise for 60 to 90 minutes most days of the week.

Risk boosters

Type 2 diabetes increases the risk for heart disease, but having depression, as well, further boosts the risk, say researchers at Duke University. If you have diabetes and/or depression, work closely with your health care provider to help prevent heart disease.

Cardiac arrest

Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops functioning, most often because of coronary heart disease. A person in cardiac arrest will not respond and will have stopped breathing. It's vital to have someone immediately call 911, get an AED (automated external defibrillator) if possible, and begin CPR immediately, the American Heart Association says.

Factors increase atherosclerosis risk

Atherosclerosis, frequently dubbed "hardening of the arteries," is the number one cause of death in the United States, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says. The agency adds these factors can increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis:

  • High blood levels of "bad" cholesterol and low levels of "good" cholesterol.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Smoking.
  • Having diabetes.
  • Being overweight.
  • Not getting enough exercise.
  • Eating an unhealthy diet full of fat, cholesterol, sugar or salt.
  • Getting older.
  • Having a family history of heart disease, especially at an early age.