Know the signs of a heart attack! Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. The good news is that excellent treatments are available for heart attacks. These treatments can save lives and prevent disabilities.
Each year, approximately 750,000 Americans suffer a heart attack. Approximately every 39 seconds some will have a Heart Attack and every 36 seconds some in the United States will die from Cardiovascular disease. People often dismiss heart attack warning signs, such as chest pain, and think they merely have heartburn or a pulled muscle. The unfortunate conclusion is that many people wait too long before getting help. We want you to recognize the early symptoms of a heart attack.
Recognizing early symptoms is the best way to treat and stop the heart attack process.
Not every heart attack displays the same symptoms as those we may see on the many medical TV shows we are exposed to daily. In fact, many people ignore the early signs of a heart attack, simply dismissing the more subtle symptoms because they expect the drama associated with a Hollywood episode. Unfortunately, when these early signs are ignored, we miss a “window of opportunity” to prevent the attack before any heart damage can occur. The following signs and symptoms are ones to be aware of in yourself or in your family members:
Differences in Men and Women
Some heart attack symptoms can be different between men and women. Why does it matter? Women may be less likely to seek immediate medical care which can cause more damage to the heart.
- Men normally feel pain with numbness in the left arm or side of the chest.
- Women may feel completely exhausted, drained, dizzy, and nauseous.
- Women may feel upper back pain that travels up into their jaw.
- Women my think their stomach pain is the flue, heartburn, or an ulcer.
Time Wasted Is Muscle Lost
This is a familiar slogan to nurses and physicians working in the emergency department (ED) when a patient enters with chest pain indicating that a heart attack is in progress. Loss of time is equates to loss of heart muscle, resulting in less enjoyment of life. The cause of the heart attack is usually a complete blockage of one of the heart vessels; complete destruction of the muscle being supplied by that vessel occurs over a six-hour period of time.
It is important to note that 85% of muscle damage takes place within the first hour. This is often referred to as the “golden hour.” It is within this timeframe that the heart vessel needs to be opened. If time is lost and the vessel is opened after this timeframe, the benefit is much less. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that action be taken early. Thus the term, “Time is Muscle.” This is truly an emergency.
The best way to stop the heart attack process is to detect the symptoms early, before damage to the heart muscle occurs. When considering whether or not to go to the hospital with chest discomfort, or chest pain, it is better to be safe than to be sorry. The heart muscle must be saved, and time is of the essence.
It is critical for those who experience any chest discomfort or pain to quickly get to the emergency department to be evaluated. Everyone should develop a contingency plan whenever chest discomfort or pain occurs.
Why Call 911?
More than 50 percent of all patients experiencing chest pain walk into the ED rather than calling 911. The reasons for this are numerous, ranging from the instinct to just jump in the car and drive to the nearest hospital to the misunderstanding that the emergency squad is just a transport vehicle. The fact remains: calling 911 starts treatment earlier.
- 911 dispatchers are often trained to locate you quickly and assist you in early treatment options.
- In many areas, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) can diagnosis a heart attack by using an electrocardiogram (ECG) and also initiate early treatment.
- Arriving by ambulance to the ED helps to ensure that you will not wait to be seen by a physician. Many patients who experience chest pain drive themselves, only to find that they may wait in the ED lobby until they can see the doctor.
- EMS can radio ahead to the ED that you are on your way. This enables the ED staff to be ready for you when you arrive through their doors.
Chest compressions alone are the best way to save an adult in cardiac arrest. Here’s what to do:
The technique shown above should not be performed on infants.