A heart attack is an acute health event in which one or more regions of the heart muscle experience a severe or prolonged decrease in oxygen supply caused by blocked blood flow to the heart muscle. A heart attack is also called myocardial infarction (MI).

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  • What is heart attack?
    • A heart attack, also called myocardial infarction (MI), is an acute health event in which one or more regions of the heart muscle experience a severe or prolonged decrease in oxygen supply caused by a blocked blood flow to the heart muscle.

      In 2007, the American Heart Association estimated 565,000 new attacks and 300,000 recurrent attacks of myocardial infarction occur each year (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute).

  • What risk factors are related to heart attacks?
    • Besides air pollutants, there are several types of risk factors involved in heart attacks. These include your genetics, health, and lifestyle.

      In terms of risk for heart attacks, the risk is greater for the following:
      * Persons with hypertension (high blood pressure)
      * Persons with low levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) or high levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) blood cholesterol
      * Persons with a family history of heart disease (especially with onset before age 55)
      * Persons with type 1 diabetes (also known as diabetes mellitus)
      * Women, after the onset of menopause
      * Cigarette smokers
      * People who are under a lot of stress
      * Individuals who are physically inactive
      * Persons overweight by 30 percent or more

  • What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
    • The American Heart Association lists these as major symptoms of a heart attack:
      * Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
      * Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
      * Shortness of breath. This often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur without chest discomfort.
      * Other symptoms. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat or experiencing nausea or light-headedness.

  • How can you prevent a heart attack?
    • All people can take steps to lower their risk for heart disease and heart attack with the following:
      * Prevent and control high blood cholesterol. All adults age 20 and older should have their cholesterol levels checked once every five years.
      * Prevent and control high blood pressure. All adults should have their blood pressure checked on a regular basis.
      * Prevent and control diabetes. People with diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease but can reduce their risk.
      * Don’t smoke tobacco. Never smoking is one of the best things a person can do to lower their risk. And, quitting smoking will also help lower a person’s risk of heart disease. A person's risk of heart attack decreases soon after quitting.
      * Moderate alcohol use. People who drink should do so only in moderation and always responsibly.
      * Maintain a healthy weight. Healthy weight status in adults is usually assessed by using weight and height to compute a number called the "body mass index" (BMI). BMI usually indicates the amount of body fat. Normal weight is a BMI of 18 to 24.9. Proper diet and regular physical activity can help to maintain a healthy weight.
      * Regular physical activity. Adults should engage in moderate level physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
      * Diet and nutrition. Along with healthy weight and regular physical activity, an overall healthy diet can help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. This includes eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, lowering or cutting out added salt or sodium, and eating less saturated fat and cholesterol to lower these risks.

  • What is the relationship between heart attacks and the environment?
    • Exposure to particulate matter in our environment is a definite risk factor for heart attacks.

      A number of studies reported associations between some air pollutants and hospitalizations for heart attacks and other forms of heart disease. Studies have demonstrated increases in heart attack hospitalization rates in relation to fine particles, called PM2.5, especially in sensitive subpopulations including the elderly, patients with pre-existing heart disease, or those with diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems such as emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma.

  • Why are data about hospitalizations important for tracking heart attacks?
    • The WI EPHT Network uses hospitalization data because heart attacks generally lead to hospitalizations so it is a reasonable method to identify appropriate cases. The state does not have a registry that is specifically related to collecting data for people that have suffered a heart attack, so hospitalization records are used as one way to identify relevant cases. The data presented are for state hospital discharges.

  • What are the benefits of tracking heart attacks?
    • Tracking heart attack hospitalizations will help identify:

    • * Heart attack hospitalization changes over time.
    • * Seasonal variations.
    • * Geographic differences in hospitalizations.
    • * Differences in heart attack hospitalizations by age, gender, and race/ethnicity.
    • * Disparities in heart attack hospitalizations by factors such as age, race/ethnicity, gender, education, and/or income.
    • * Identify populations in need of targeted interventions

  • How can tracking heart attacks improve public health?
    • The development of standardized measures for heart attack inpatient hospitalization among Wisconsin residents will inform public health practitioners and medical personnel at the national, state, and local levels. These measures will allow for monitoring of trends over time, and have the potential to identify high-risk groups not reflected in current national data. These data may also inform heart attack prevention, evaluation, and program planning efforts.

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Last Revised: January 28, 2014


Data Query

Heart Attack Data:
Access the heart attack hospitalization data in the WI EPHT online database. Review the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.

Data Details

What is the data source?

The website provides data about asthma hospital admissions and emergency department visits. The source of these data are the Wisconsin Hospital Association Information Center, Inc.

How does WI EPHT measure heart attacks?

The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:

  • Annual number of hospitalizations, by age, gender, and geography
  • Monthly average, maximum, and minimum daily number of hospitalizations by age, gender, and geography
  • Annual unadjusted (crude) rate of hospitalizations for ages 35+, by gender and geography
  • Annual age-specific rates of hospitalizations for all ages, by gender and geography
  • Annual age-adjusted rate of hospitalizations for ages 35+, by gender and geography

Why are data about hospital admissions important for tracking heart attacks?

Since a registry for reporting asthma cases does not exist, there is a need to find other ways to measure the burden of heart attacks in Wisconsin. The use of International Classification of Disease (ICD) coding allows for the identification of patients with heart attacks in the hospital admissions.

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:

  • Because these data are based on hospital admissions, some people who experience symptoms are not included, such as those who do not receive medical care, those whose care does not result in hospitalization, and victims who die in settings such as ambulances, nursing homes, or at home.
  • These data do not include hospitalizations among residents of Wisconsin in facilities in other states (such as those that border Wisconsin).
  • These data do not include inpatient admissions at hospitals owned by the federal government, such as Veterans Administration hospitals.

There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:

  • Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
  • Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
  • Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
  • Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements