February is American Heart and Go Red for Women Month, an ideal time for all adults to focus on their hearts, said Janette Wheat, Ph.D, of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Wheat is associate professor and Extension human development and family studies specialist.

Also, this is the time to encourage friends, families and communities to learn the important signs and symptoms of a heart attack and how to respond.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, she said. Someone in the United States has a heart attack every 40 seconds, according to a 2017 report from the American Heart Association.

Recognizing that someone is having a heart attack and calling 911 are crucial for getting life-saving emergency cardiac care and advanced treatments to improve survival.

“Of course, we must recognize the five common symptoms of a heart attack,” she said.

Symptoms include:

• Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back;

• Feeling weak, lightheaded or faint;

• Chest pain or discomfort;

• Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder;

• Shortness of breath.

“If you suspect someone or you having a heart attack, call 911 immediately,” according to officials.

The Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) also reports that the percentage of people who are aware of all five heart attack symptoms increased from 39.6 percent in 2008 to 50.2 percent in 2017, but that sociodemographic disparities exist.

Wheat said that education is needed to be more widely available on recognizing heart attack symptoms.

“One way to begin is to love and nurture ourselves and focus on heart health,” according to officials.

The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff offers all of its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.

— Carol Sanders is a writer/editor at UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.