10 Things Every Caregiver Should Know About Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS)

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In the event that you or a loved one has chest pains, whether coming on suddenly or over time, it's hard to know what to do. Acute coronary syndrome (ACS) is the medical term for chest pains and signifies when there's reduced blood flow to the heart. Below are 10 things every caregiver should know about ACS, by the numbers.

0: The amount of blood going through blocked arteries due to blood clots or plaque buildup with an overlying clot. Acute coronary syndrome is an umbrella term that covers heart attack and unstable angina. It means the heart is not receiving its normal blood supply and the cells of the heart muscle are dying.

9-1-1: ACS is an emergency. Call 911 if you are having any of its symptoms or have any of the signs of a heart attack.

4: Major symptoms of ACS include:(1)

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, light-headedness, or cold sweats

4: The number of hours doctors have to reopen blocked arteries after initial symptoms appear. Generally, patients do best when medicines such as clot busters or procedures such as angioplasty are performed to restore blood flow to the heart.(1)

715,000: The number of Americans who have a heart attack every year, according to statistics from the CDC. Of these, 190,000 are people who have already had a heart attack.(2)

34: The number of seconds between times when, in the U.S., a person experiences ACS.(3)

3: Major risk factors that can't be changed. These factors increase your chances of having ACS: your age (65 is the magic number), gender (being male), and heredity (a strong family history of heart disease plus your race).(4)

25: The percentage of deaths from heart attacks for whites, which is the highest figure for subsets of the U.S. population. But African-Americans place a close second at 24.5 percent. Asians/Pacific Islanders have the third-highest death rate from heart attacks at 23.2 percent.(2)

7: Simple steps that you can take to decrease your chances of having ACS. Eat a healthful diet, exercise, lower your blood pressure, reduce your blood sugar, control cholesterol, lose weight, and stop smoking.(5)

Million: Million Hearts® is an initiative to save one million people from heart attacks by 2017. By coordinating cardiovascular disease-prevention activities across the public and private sectors, Million Hearts hopes to promote the "ABCS" of clinical prevention (appropriate aspirin therapy, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, and smoking cessation). Visit http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/index.html to learn more about the agencies, communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, and private-sector partners working together to achieve this goal.


1. "Acute Coronary Syndrome." American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/AboutHeartAttacks/Acute-Coronary-Syndrome_UCM_428752_Article.jsp. Accessed October 6, 2013.
2. "Heart Disease Facts." CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm. Accessed October 6, 2013.
3. "Heart Attack Symptoms in Women." American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/WarningSignsofaHeartAttack/Heart-Attack-Symptoms-in-Women_UCM_436448_Article.jsp. Accessed October 6, 2013.
4. "Understand Your Risk of Heart Attack." American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/UnderstandYourRiskofHeartAttack/Understand-Your-Risk-of-Heart-Attack_UCM_002040_Article.jsp. Accessed October 6, 2013.
5. "My Life Check." American Heart Association. http://mylifecheck.heart.org/. Accessed October 6, 2013.