EHAC Course:

Standard Course: Section 1

EHAC Did you know

The Early Heart Attack Care (EHAC) education shares the early warning signs of a heart attack.

These symptoms can be non-specific or specific.

Specific Heart Attack Symptoms (PRODROMAL ANGINA):

  • Chest discomfort
  • Chest pressure
  • Chest ache
  • Chest burning
  • Chest fullness

Non-Specific Heart Attack Symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

These mild symptoms may indicate the onset of a heart attack. They may come and go for hours or days before the chest pain becomes severe. Early symptoms are called prodromal and can be compared to the prodromal symptoms of a cold. When treated early, prevention can take place to avert sudden death and cardiac damage. Early recognition and response saves lives.

1. What do we know about heart attacks?

Heart attacks are the number one killer of the adult population in the United States. According to recent statistics:

  • Every year approximately 805,000 Americans have a heart attack.
  • Of these, 605,000 are a first heart attack and 200,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
  • Almost 50% may be unaware or don't act on early warning signs.
  • Note: Statistics provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. Can I reduce my heart attack risk?

Yes, learn the risk factors and modify your lifestyle to reduce the chance of heart disease. Some of the risk factors include:

  • A family history of cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Overweight or obese
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Using tobacco products
  • Metabolic disease, diabetes or other illnesses
  • For women it can also include birth control pills, a history of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes or having a low birth weight baby

3. What causes a heart attack and why do people die?

The heart is a great pump and it needs a steady blood supply to survive. There are three major blood vessels supplying the heart. When a blockage occurs, it interferes with the blood supply. This blockage could potentially lead to heart damage or possible death.

4. What causes a blockage?

A disease called atherosclerosis or “hardening of the vessels.” Our lifestyle may include well-known risk factors such as hypertension, cholesterol and cigarette smoking. Over a long period of time, the cholesterol plaque build-up will rupture which allows a clot to form and the vessel closes.

5. Why is there chest pain?

Chest pain is a main “risk factor” or symptom that tells you a heart attack may be occurring. To understand, let’s take a closer look at what is taking place. Over time, plaque builds up in the areas that feed blood to the heart. When the plaque tears away (or ruptures), the body immediately begins to repair itself by forming a clot to heal the tear. But as the clot gets bigger and bigger, it blocks the heart from getting blood flow. Without blood, the heart begins to die.

Imagine a scratch on your hand. The blood clots in order to stop the bleeding. Now think of this clot inside your blood vessels. The body is trying to heal itself, but as the clot grows, it is also blocking the blood flow to the heart. Remember, the heart is a muscle. As blood flow slows, the heart begins to “spasm.” The sequence in most cases is: chest discomfort which leads to chest pain, which leads to unstable angina, which leads to damaging myocardial infarction, which leads to sudden death. The heart stops.