Four Corners Health Department — Avoid a heart attack

Many people love to build their muscles. They eat right and pump iron to get to their best. They also make sure you notice how strong they are!

Wouldn’t it be great if we all felt that way about our hearts – a very important muscle? We would be active to make it strong. We would eat better to keep it at its best. We even could show off at times to let people see how strong our heart is!

When our heart muscle is injured

Just like other muscles in our body, our heart can get injured. A heart attack is damage to the heart muscle. It occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off. This can happen due to a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances (plaque). We then have narrowed arteries around the heart.

When plaque in a heart artery breaks open, a blood clot forms. The clot can block blood flow. When it completely stops blood flow to part of the heart muscle, that portion of muscle begins to die. Damage can get worse the longer an artery stays blocked. Once some of the heart muscle dies, a person can have permanent heart damage. The blocked artery should be opened as soon as possible to reduce heart damage.

Signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort, most often felt in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes – or it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, such as pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or feeling lightheaded.

How can I help to avoid a heart attack? 

  • Don’t smoke or vape, and avoid second-hand smoke.
  • Keep your blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Get your cholesterol checked and talk to your health care professional about your numbers.
  • Eat foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium (salt) and added sugars.
  • Be physically active. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of activity that gets your heart rate up.
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Keep your fasting blood sugar less than 100 mg/dL or an A1C of less than 5.7%.
  • Get enough sleep. Aim for an average of 7-9 hours of sleep a day.
  • Get regular medical check-ups.
  • Take your medication as prescribed.

If you think you may be having a heart attack, don’t hesitate… call 911 immediately. Making the call could save your life.

For more information, go to the American Heart Association website at

To find out more about this topic, contact Four Corners at 402-362-2621 or 877-337-3573 or email You can follow us on Facebook at Four Corners Health Department, Twitter, or Instagram @FC_HealthDept! Be sure to visit our YouTube channel.

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