Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke, are our nation’s No. 1 killer. Those figures include Richland County where Richland Public Health’s 2017 Causes of Death in Richland County (includes the City of Shelby) also shows heart disease as the number one killer. February is American Heart Month, focusing attention on efforts to reduce those numbers nationally and locally.

Coronary heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Stroke is the No. 3 cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious disability. Locally in 2017, coronary heart disease caused 442 deaths (207 women and 235 men) That figure represents 35% of the deaths in Richland County, although that number is down 4% in the last two years.

Nearly half of adults in Richland County have high blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, or even death. Richland Public Health encourages residents to talk to their doctor about high blood pressure. They can also monitor their blood pressure by borrowing a blood pressure kit from any library in Richland County. This program, a project of Richland Public Health’s Communities Preventing Chronic Disease Project, allows people to check their blood pressure over a period of time and to share those results with their physician.

It’s important to reduce your risk factors by limiting salt, eating a healthy diet, and exercising more. But it’s also important to know the warning signs of a heart attack or stroke, and know how to respond quickly and properly if warning signs occur.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the “movie heart attack,” where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

Heart Attack Warning Signs

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

Stroke Warning Signs (from the American Stroke Association)

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

If you or someone with you has one or more of these signs for either a heart attack or a stroke, don’t delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the emergency medical services (EMS) number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent to you. The faster you can get medical care the better chances are for both survival and decreasing the negative side effects.

Source: Richland Public Health

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