September is Heart Awareness Month, which strives to educate the general public to become aware of the importance of a healthy heart. Not only is it important to attempt to lead a healthy lifestyle with respect to eating habits and exercise, but to also be aware of symptoms that indicate possible heart disease.

It cannot be stressed enough the need to have a regular cholesterol checkup, as cholesterol build up in the circulatory systems is one of the leading causes of heart failure and heart attacks. Checkups can be done at your local pharmacy and are inexpensive and not time consuming. Pharmacists will also discuss the results with you and give you advice with regards to how to go about lowering cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol, or fatty build up inside the arteries causes a narrowing, preventing the smooth flow of blood through the heart. This in turn causes a decrease in the deliverance of much needed oxygen to cells, causing them to slowly die off. When muscle cells in the heart die, the heart muscles pumping ability is decreased, and the blood supply to other important organs is inhibited, causing them to slowly shut down.

Risk factors for heart disease includes age, family history of heart disease, smoking, lack of exercise and diet, and as you can see, most of which can be controlled by you. It is also important to be aware of the symptoms of possible heart attacks. As Emergency Medical Service providers, we often come across heart attack victims who have been experiencing chest pain for some time, but they thought that it was not yet bad enough to warrant going to the hospital.

The following are guidelines with regards to detecting the early stages of a possible heart attack:

· Pressure/crushing feeling in the chest upon exertion accompanied with shortness of breath

· Sudden onset of dizziness, sweating and nausea

· Dull ache in the jaw, left arm and back

Sometimes heart attacks are atypical in a sense that the symptoms experienced are not those that are experienced by most, but if you suspect that you may indeed be suffering from a heart attack, and fall into the risk factors, do not hesitate to go through to a hospital for a checkup. It is better to find that nothing is wrong than have waited until it is too late.