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Did you know that nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States has high blood cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke?1 High blood cholesterol can be hard to detect, as it often shows no signs or symptoms.

February is a good time to remind ourselves, our patient and loved ones that we must pay attention to symptoms that may be problematic. It is important to listen to our bodies and call 911 if you experience chest discomfort, pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or feeling light-headed.

Symptoms can vary between men and women. As with men, the most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. Women are more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularity shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

“If you are experiencing signs of a heart attack or stroke, calling 911 is best because minutes matter. Experienced EMS personnel can begin life-saving treatment the minute they get to you. These professionals are trained to start treatment and transport rapidly,” said Jennifer Geisert, RN, BSN; Quality Improvement Advisor and team lead for Great Plains QIN cardiac health efforts. Geisert continued, “EMS staff are also equipped to revive your heart if it has stopped. Individuals with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too.”

FAST is the mnemonic for Stroke symptoms; individuals may remember the following [be sure to use this reference when offering education and raising awareness]:

F = Face drooping

A = Arm weakness

S = Speech difficulty

T = Time to call 911

Protecting yourself from heart disease and stroke begins with a healthy lifestyle.  In the coming weeks, we will share tips and resources on healthy eating and exercise.

Visit the CDC Web site for American Heart Month messaging, social media tools and resources for consumers and health professionals, including the latest cholesterol guidelines.

Source: Benjamin EJ, Blaha MJ, Chiuve SE, Cushman M, Das SR, Deo R, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2017 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017;135:e1–e458.