Heart Attack Fact Sheet

Disease Manifestation and Symptoms

  • Heart attack, or acute myocardial infarction, is caused when a blood clot obstructs a coronary artery supplying blood to the heart. This causes an inadequate flow of oxygenated and nutrient-enriched blood and results in the death of a portion of the heart muscle.
  • Symptoms of a heart attack may include: uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes; pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms; and chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.


  • Heart attack is a leading killer of men and women in developed countries. Each year, as many as 770,000 people in the U.S. will have a coronary attack (includes heart attack and fatal coronary disease). Estimated deaths worldwide due to coronary heart disease total 7.1 million per year.

Time to Treatment

  • The average heart attack victim often does not recognize the onset of symptoms, and with time at a premium, waits more than four hours before getting help.
  • Each year, more than 225,000 people die from heart attacks within one hour of the onset of symptoms and before ever reaching a hospital.
  • Several large, worldwide studies have determined that life-saving heart attack therapies are most beneficial when initiated early in the course of a heart attack.
  • Guidelines from the National Institutes of Health's National Heart Attack Alert Program urge hospital emergency departments to reduce delays in treating heart attack patients. The goal is to treat heart attack patients within 30 minutes of arrival in the emergency room.

Gender/Race Statistics

  • Each year, approximately 555,000 men and 365,000 women suffer heart attacks. In part because women have heart attacks at older ages than men do, women are more likely to die from an attack within a few weeks. Of the approximately 452,000 fatal heart attacks per year in the U.S., nearly half occur in women.
  • Within five years of a heart attack, 18 percent of men and 35 percent of women will suffer another heart attack, and four percent of men and six percent of women will experience sudden death.


  • People who survive the acute stage of a heart attack have a chance of illness and death that is 1.5 to 15 times greater than that of the general population, depending on their sex and clinical outcomes. The risk of another heart attack, sudden death, angina pectoris, heart failure and stroke for both men and women is substantial.
  • Approximately 20 percent of heart attack victims will have heart failure within six years of their heart attack.
  • Within 5 years after a recognized heart attack:
    • 24.5% of men and 11.6% of women will experience sudden death.
    • 29% of men and 37% of women will be disabled with heart failure.


  • Expenditures for coronary heart disease in the U.S. were estimated to exceed $156.4 billion in 2008*.

* Figures were based on projected costs of physician and other professionals, hospital and nursing home services, medication costs, home health and other medical durables, as well as indirect costs associated with lost productivity because of morbidity and mortality.

American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics - 2008 Update. Dallas, Tex.: American Heart Association; 2007.