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Campaign Encourages Women to Recognize Heart Attack, Dial 911

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Heart disease is the number one killer of women.  An American woman suffers a heart attack every minute.  Yet after years of public education programs, the message hasn't penetrated and many women can't detect the signs.

The "Make the Call, Don't Miss a Beat" campaign, unveiled Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services and its Office on Women's Health, wants women to learn to recognize signs of a heart attack, especially the signs they're likely to dismiss.

The campaign also emphasizes the importance of dialing 911 if women experience one or more of those signs with an intensity and persistence they've never felt before, delivering its message through print and broadcast public service advertisements, billboards and public transit ads, and with testimonials of heart attack survivors.

The underpinning of the campaign is clear: getting appropriate medical attention within an hour of a heart attack halves the risk of dying.

In 2006, an American Heart Association survey conducted every three years found that 79 percent of women reported that the first thing they would do if they thought they were having a heart attack was to call 911.  But in the 2009 survey, "we were shocked that only 53 percent of women said they would call 911 first," said Suzanne Haynes, senior science adviser for the Office on Women's Health and director of the campaign.

Women easily overlook or excuse subtle symptoms that can end in a heart attack, as well as many acute symptoms during a heart attack, said Dr. Lori Mosca, director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and one of the campaign's developers.

The seven major signs you are having a heart attack are:

1. Unusual or unexplained fatigue unrelated to exercise.

2. Unfamiliar dizziness or lightheadedness.

3. Unexplained nausea, vomiting.

4. Sharp pain in the upper body, including the neck, back and jaw.

5. Severe shortness of breath.

6. Heavy pressure on the chest, which may feel like indigestion, heartburn, fullness or squeezing, lasts more than a few minutes and may abate before returning.

7. Cold sweats that do not resemble the hot flashes associated with menopause.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio