The warning signs of a heart attack

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A heart attack is a medical emergency. Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if you or someone you are with experiences the warning signs of heart attack.

One in four people who suffer a fatal heart attack die within an hour of experiencing their first symptomi. In light of this statistic, it's no surprise that in Australia over 50% of heart attack induced deaths occur out of hospitalii. The chance of surviving a heart attack depends on the severity and location of the blockage and the speed at which medical treatment is receivediii.

Because a heart attack causes the heart muscle to die, there is only a small window of opportunity to minimise heart damage for heart attack survivors. After two hours without emergency treatment, damage to the heart muscle may be irreversible and can cause permanent disabilityiv. Therefore, the best chance of surviving a heart attack and making a good recovery is to recognise the warning signs and call "000" if you experience them - that way you can get medical help as soon as possible.

Heart attacks can occur suddenly. By recognising the warning signs and acting fast, you have the best chance for survival and recovery.

Symptoms of a heart attack

Like any other muscle, the heart needs a good supply of oxygenated blood to function. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot blocks one of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart musclev. Blood clots occur when there is a buildup of plaque - mostly made of cholesterol - in the artery wallsv. Once the blood forms a clot, the heart muscle becomes starved of oxygen and begins to die. The quicker treatment is received, the more muscle can be saved and the chance of recovery and survival increasesvi.

Warning signs of a heart attack include tightness, pain or pressure in the chest, dizziness, and shortness of breathv. However, it's important to note that the warning signs vary from person to personv. Not everyone will experience a heart attack to the same degree of severity. In some cases they can be sudden and severe but in others the person may experience only mild chest pains that get worse over minutesv. Either way, every minute counts if you are having a heart attackiv.

The Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors of a heart attack that you cannot control, such as age and a family history of heart diseasevii. But there is a strong link between unhealthy lifestyle choices and heart attacks. In particular physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, smoking, and being overweight are heart attack factors that we can controlvii.

Latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) show that in Australia one in four adults are obese and less than one in 10 eat the recommended 5 serves of vegetables per dayviii. A 2007-8 study found that and more than 72% of people over the age of 15 did not meet national guidelines for physical activityix.

People who do not participate in physical activity are twice as likely to die from coronary heart disease compared to those who do exercisex and poor dietary behavior contributes to heart disease risk factors such high blood pressure and blood cholesterolxi.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can reduce your chance of a heart attack.

The Impact of Heart Disease

A heart attack occurs in Australia every 11 minutes and a life is claimed every 51 minutesxii. Accounting for a third of all deaths in Australia, cardiovascular disease is the nation's leading cause of deathviii. Furthermore, cardiovascular disease is also one of the leading causes of disability in Australiaxiii.

The risk of heart attack can be minimised by adopting a healthy lifestyle of eating well, not smoking and doing frequent exercise. By recognising warning signs and symptoms, a sufferer can seek immediate medical attention in the case of a heart attack and increase their chance of survival and recovery. If you recognise these signs in another person and act fast, you could end up saving a life.

A heart attack can place significant emotional and financial burdens on your family. If you survive a heart attack but are left with a disability, the reality is that earning an income and supporting your family financially may become difficult. Similarly, medical bills associated with heart attack recovery can further drain your family's finances.

By taking out life insurance, you can provide long term financial security in the event of death, disability or serious illness. Providing future financial security for your family should not be an afterthought and you should consider this before you have any health scares and while there are still a range of options available to you. Don't put off getting life insurance - get a life insurance quote from Allianz today.

i Heart Foundation, Heart Attack facts: How many lives do heart attacks claim in Australia?,

ii Heart Foundation, Heart Attack facts: Why are so many people dying from heart attacks?,

iii Heart Foundation, What is a Heart Attack?,

iv Heart Foundation, Heart Attack facts: Are the warning signs the same for everybody, and what is the long-term damage?,

v Better Health Channel, 2011, Heart Attack, State Government of Victoria,

vi Heart Foundation, Heart Attack facts: What is a heart attack,

vii Heart Foundation, Heart Attack facts: What are the risk factors?,

viii AAP, Happy but too fat: nation's health report, June 21 2012,

ix Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007/08, National Health Survey: Summary of Results,, p.12

x Australian Government-Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, 2011, Cardiovascular Disease Australian Facts 2011,, p.14

xi Australian Government-Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, 2011, Cardiovascular Disease Australian Facts 2011,, p.17

xii Heart Foundation, Heart Attack facts: How many lives do heart attacks claim in Australia?,

xiii Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, Cardiovascular disease,