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Heart Disease

Heart disease, the most common form of cardiovascular disease, is the single leading cause of death in Alabama. In 2006, heart disease accounted for 12,583 (26.7 percent) of deaths in the state. Men continue to have a higher age-adjusted heart mortality rate than women. Coronary Artery Disease, the most common type of heart disease, can result in heart attack, which can be highly preventable by modifying risk factors.

Types of Cardiovascular Diseases and Definitions

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Heart Attack

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, occurs when a section of the heart muscle dies or gets damaged because of reduced blood supply. Coronary Artery Disease is the main cause of heart attack. A less common cause is a severe spasm of a coronary artery, which also can prevent blood supply from reaching the heart.

The five major symptoms of a heart attack are:

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder.
  • Shortness of breath.

If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. Otherwise, further damage to the heart muscle can occur and an irregular heart rhythm may develop. Sudden cardiac arrest - the stopping of the heart - occurs when the heart stops completely. Unless treated, a person whose heart has stopped will die within minutes.

Symptoms of Heart Attack in Women

Women may have all, none, many or a few of the typical heart attack symptoms. For women, the most common heart attack symptom is still some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But women are more likely than men to also have heart attack symptoms without chest pain, such as:

  • Abdominal pain, discomfort or "heart burn."
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Sweating.
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue.

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