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Heart Attacks: What You Need to Know

With SMH Cardiovascular Program Coordinator April Slone

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Each year, about 350,000 cardiac arrests happen outside of the hospital, according to the American Heart Association. To find out ways we can prevent a heart attack and what to do when someone shows heart attack symptoms, Healthe-Matters editors talked with Cardiovascular Program Coordinator April Slone, RN. Here are her answers to the most frequently asked heart-attack questions.

How do I know if I’m having a heart attack?

One of the most common signs is chest pain, and that can also feel like pressure or burning or an aching, squeezing sensation. Then there’s often that left arm pain that can travel down the arm, and some people get jaw pain as well.

How do heart attack symptoms differ between men and women?

There are actually many signs and symptoms for heart attacks. Women are more likely to feel nausea, vomiting or belly pain; upper back pain that travels into the jaw; or extreme fatigue. They may feel like they're having the flu or significant indigestion. And all of those symptoms may start really weak but progressively get worse over time.

What do I do if I see someone having a heart attack, or if I’m having one?

The first thing to do is call 9-1-1.

We don't want anybody driving to the hospital while they may be having a heart attack. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) can get there sooner and can start treatment immediately to stop the heart attack in its tracks. EMS can also notify the hospital, so the hospital is ready to accept the patient when you arrive. 

If you see someone else experiencing a heart attack, call 9-1-1 and begin hands-only CPR immediately. If you don’t know how do hands-only CPR, watch our demo video or look for local classes that teach it.

How do I prevent a heart attack?

There are a lot of risk factors for heart attacks. One is family history, which you can't change, but there are some things you can change to reduce your risk of having a heart attack.

  • If you're smoking, stop smoking.

  • Choose a healthy diet. Watch your cholesterol. Watch your fat.

  • If you're overweight or obese, develop a plan to reach a healthy weight with a diet and exercise plan. 

  • Make sure that you have regular checkups with your physician, at least annual checkups with your primary care physician and/or cardiologist, if you have one. 


A cardiac nurse for more than 20 years, Sarasota Memorial Cardiovascular Program Coordinator April Slone, RN, oversees the hospital's chest pain accreditation program and assists with community outreach programs related to cardiac care.


Posted: Feb 18, 2020,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Key