Each year, approximately half a million Americans die from a heart attack. Dr. Robert Merritt discusses the causes of heart attacks and the advancements in drug treatments and new cardiac technologies, including automated external defibrillators. Created: 3/20/2008 by MMWR.
Date Released: 3/20/2008. Series Name: A Cup of Health with CDC.
A CUP OF HEALTH WITH CDC
Listen to Your Heart
Awareness of Heart Attack Warning Signs and Actions Taken — 14 States, 2005
March 20, 2008
[Announcer] This podcast is presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC — safer,
[Dr. Gaynes] Welcome to A Cup of Health with CDC, a weekly feature of the MMWR,
the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. I’m Dr. Robert Gaynes, your host.
Is your heart trying to tell you something? Each year, nearly half a million Americans die
from a heart attack. Had they known the warning signs, they might still be alive today.
New treatments are available that can stop a heart attack before it kills, but they’re only
effective if administered soon after symptoms appear.
Dr. Robert Merritt is a researcher with CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease
Prevention and Health Promotion. He’s joining us today to discuss the symptoms of a
heart attack and what a person should do if he or she thinks they might be having one.
Welcome to the show, Rob.
[Dr. Merritt] Thank you.
[Dr. Gaynes] Rob, how common are heart attacks in the United States?
[Dr. Merritt] Every year, about 920,000 Americans suffer heart attacks. And about
450,000 of those are fatal. Unfortunately, half of these deaths occur within 1 hour of
symptoms and before a patient seeks treatment or reaches a hospital.
[Dr. Gaynes] Are they a result of genetic makeup, lifestyle, or a combination of both?
[Dr. Merritt] It’s a combination of genetic factors, as well as lifestyle choices we make
here in the United States.
[Dr. Gaynes] What are the most common warning signs of a heart attack?
[Dr. Merritt] The most common warning signs are pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or
back; feeling weak, light-headed, or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort in
your arms or shoulders; and shortness of breath.
[Dr. Gaynes] Is it possible to distinguish between say soreness or indigestion and an
actual heart attack?
[Dr. Merritt] It is difficult to distinguish the two, so we feel that it’s best to seek care if
[Dr. Gaynes] What should someone do if they think they are having a heart attack?
[Dr. Merritt] The best thing to do is to seek care immediately by calling 911.
[Dr. Gaynes] What kind of advancements have we seen in the treatment of heart
[Dr. Merritt] There are several new treatments available, most notably, the automated
external defibrillators or AEDs, which are widely available at our work places, airports,
health clubs, and other public areas. There are also advancements in drug treatments
and a variety of new cardiac technologies. So it’s important to remember that the faster
you seek and receive treatment, the better your chances of survival.
[Dr. Gaynes] Where can listeners get more information about heart attacks?