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Dr. Michael Oliver talks about heart disease during Thursday’s Senior Circle breakfast at Woodward Regional Hospital.

Cloeta Miller of Woodward has already been through a heart attack.

So when a talk about heart attacks and strokes was given by Dr. Michael Oliver, the medical director of the emergency department at Woodward Regional Hospital, she said she paid attention.

“I learned that when you’re having a heart attack, you need to get to the hospital early, among other things,” Miller said of Oliver’s presentation.

Miller was among 88 members of Senior Circle who attended the event, which was held Thursday morning after a free breakfast in the hospital cafeteria.

During the presentation, Oliver pointed out that in the event of a heart attack early treatment can mean the difference between life and death.

The symptoms of heart attack include a feeling of pressure in the chest, flip flop feeling of the heart, shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating, Oliver said, but added that symptoms tend to present themselves differently in men than women.

For example, men feel more chest pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach, he said.   Women, however, experience shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain, he said.

When a person thinks he is  having a heart attack, he should call 911 instead of a relative or a friend, Oliver said. That way, an ambulance attendant can start treatment early.

But perhaps the best thing a person can do is practice prevention, Oliver said.

For example, taking a baby aspirin (81 mg) can reduce the risk of heart attack by 20 percent, he said.

He added that balancing cholesterol, eating healthy, exercising routinely, monitoring alcohol consumption and getting regular health screenings also help prevent heart attacks.

It is also important to watch your blood pressure because high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attacks.

“By reducing blood pressure by a level of five, from 140 to 135, you reduce your risk of heart attack ... significantly,” Oliver said.

He listed other risk factors to having a heart attack as high bad cholesterol levels, obesity, smoking, an unhealthy diet, non-activity, heredity and diabetes.

“Diabetes is a personal one for me because I see it so much,” Oliver said.

The doctor also noted that these same risk factors also put people at risk for other vascular diseases, such as stroke.

He said the risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, heart disease, tobacco use, and atrial fibrillation, which causes blood clots to form and block arteries.

However just as with heart attacks, similar preventative measures, such as exercise and diet and quitting smoking, can be taken to avoid strokes.

Oliver noted that a baby aspirin might also be prescribed for stroke prevention as well as heart attack prevention because aspirin “makes your (blood) platelets not stick to form a clot.”

But the similarities between strokes and heart attacks don't end there, because the same rule about getting immediate help also applies to strokes.

“If you think you’re having a stroke ... (and) we don’t get to you in three hours, your chances of dying or being paralyzed permanently are very high,” Oliver said.

Symptoms of a stroke include severe headache, weakness, numbness, paralysis of the face or extremities on one side, difficulty walking, dizziness, and vision or speech problems, such as blurriness of vision or difficulty speaking, he said.

Vi Jackson, a friend of Miller’s who also attended Oliver’s presentation, said she found Oliver's talk informative as well.

“I learned we need to be watching very carefully for symptoms of heart attack and stroke,” Jackson said. “He recommended aspirin, and I’m going to tell everyone of my children about it.”

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