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Heart Disease & Stroke

Know the signs of heart attack and stroke and CALL 9-1-1 if you, or someone you know, is experiencing symptoms of heart attack and stroke.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in South Dakota (2016 Vital Stats Report). Heart disease and cerebrovascular disease (stroke) are major causes of disability.


Heart disease – also called cardiovascular disease or coronary heart disease – is a simple term used to describe several problems related to plaque buildup
in the walls of the arteries, or atherosclerosis.

As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow, making it more difficult for blood to flow and creating a risk for heart attack or stroke. Other types of heart disease include heart failure, an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and heart valve problems.

Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms

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

What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood flow can slowly become narrrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are called plaque. When a plaque in a heart artery breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque. This blood clot can block the blood flow through the heart muscle. When the heart muscle is starved for oxygen and nutrients, it is called ischemia. When damage or death of part of the heart muscle occurs as a result of ischemia, it is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI). About every 34 seconds, someone in the United States has a myocardial infarction (heart attack).

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Cardiac arrest, also known as sudden cardiac arrest, is the abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have diagnosed heart disease. While a heart attack may cause cardiac arrest and sudden death, the terms don't mean the same thing. Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart's electrical system malfunctions. In cardiac arrest,  death results when the heart suddenly stops working properly. Cardiac arrest may be reversed if CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is performed and a defibrillator is used to shock the heart and restore a normal heart rhythm within a few minutes.

What is a Stroke?

Stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. Stroke can be caused either by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to thebrain (called an ischemic stroke) or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain (called a hemorrhagic stroke).

A TIA (transient ischemic attack), or "mini stroke," is caused by a temporary clot.

Common Stroke Warning Signs

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg—especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause




Sources: American Heart Association, South Dakota Department of Health Work Well Toolkit