Heart Attack and Stroke Awareness: The symptoms and steps
February is Heart Attack and Stroke Awareness month. To keep yourself and loved ones safe all year round, you should learn to recognize the symptoms of these serious medical emergencies.
Know the facts
9 in 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke.  Conditions that are risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, atrial fibrillation and vascular cognitive impairment.  About 1 in 12 (or 2.4 million) Canadian adults age 20 and over live with diagnosed heart disease.  Every hour, about 12 Canadian adults age 20 die from diagnosed heart disease.  Heart disease affects women and men differently. While men are 2 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than women,  women who have a heart attack are more likely than men to either die or suffer a second heart attack.  Stroke is the third leading cause of death in Canada  and the tenth largest contributor to disability-adjusted life years (the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death). 
Heart attack symptoms
Chest pain and discomfort – painful, clenching feeling, especially severe and prolonged. Individuals may also feel pressure in the chest, along with heaviness or crushing pain. Intense sweating without any apparent cause. May strike in the day or night and individuals can wake up in a cold sweat and may also exhibit an unnatural pallor. Shortness of breath – may occur on its own or with other symptoms such as swelling of ankles, insomnia and unusual fatigue. Indigestion without any cause or it can be chest pain that is mistaken for a stomach ache. Rapid and irregular pulse, often accompanied by dizziness and lightheadedness. Pain in throat and jaw, especially when it has radiated from the chest area.
What to do if you or someone else has a heart attack: Do not waste time, call 911 immediately and follow dispatcher instructions until help arrives You may be advised to: Chew and swallow an aspirin. Take nitroglycerin, as prescribed. Begin CPR or, if available, use an AED (automated external defibrillator) on the affected person.
Remember the acronym F.A.S.T. for an easy way to identify symptoms of a stroke: Face – Is one side drooping? Is it numb? Arms – Is one arm weak or numb? Can you raise both arms in sync? Speech – Is speech slurred or jumbled? Time – When you witness or experience these symptoms, time is of the essence… please call 911 fast! Additional sudden symptoms you may witness: Sudden confusion – trouble speaking or understand written words or speech. Sudden numbness or weakness – of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of body. Sudden trouble seeing – in one or both eyes. Sudden trouble walking – as a result of dizziness, loss of balance Sudden severe headache – with no identifiable cause
What to do if you or someone else has a stroke
Call 911 immediately and notify the operator that you suspect a stroke, then follow all instructions given. Keep track of symptoms. Talk to the affected person, encouraging them to lie down. If the person becomes unconscious, you may need to perform CPR Stay calm until help arrives. As we age, our risk for heart and stroke emergencies increases. These medical events can cause long-term disability, as well as permanent disability, and affect an individual’s independence.
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