Saturday, April 20, 2013

Do you know the symptoms of a heart attack? Do you know what to do in the event of a heart attack?


In real life heart attack symptoms are not always pronounced dramatically like this Saturday Night Live video clip with Chris Farley. Symptoms can include an unexplained fatigue, abdominal discomfort, or other puzzling symptoms that cause people to wait, sometimes for hours, before seeking medical treatment. This can be a fatal mistake. The ability to quickly identify the signs of heart attack can be life-saving. The sooner that you call 9-1-1, the faster you can get to an emergency room for treatment. Early treatment can minimize heart and brain tissue damage and it can make the difference between life and death.

Why do people wait to seek help?

People often expect the ‘heart attack’ seen in films where a man suddenly clutches his chest and drops to the ground. They may blame it on indigestion from the spicy enchilada they ate for lunch. Women may also experience very different symptoms than a man and fail to recognize them as signs of a heart attack. Some people become flustered or embarrassed about their symptoms turning out to be a false alarm.

But timing is crucial. Preferably, treatment such as angioplasty or clot-dissolving drugs, should begin within 1 hour after symptoms begin according to the American Heart Association. So the quicker that you act and get to an emergency room, the better your chance of survival. Yet, one study found that half of people experiencing heart attack symptoms delayed seeking treatment for more than 4 hours.

Remember and familiarize yourself with these heart attack symptoms:

-        Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest. These symptoms can vary from mild to severe, and may come and go.
-        Discomfort in other areas, such as the neck, arms, jaw, back, or stomach.
-        Shortness of breath, lightheadedness, nausea, or breaking out in a cold sweat.

Women may experience chest pain or discomfort, but in many cases it’s not the most apparent symptom.

Instead, women are more likely than men to have these symptoms:

-        Unusual fatigue
-        Nausea or indigestion
-        Dizziness or lightheadedness
-        Abdominal discomfort that may feel like indigestion or gas
-        Discomfort described as pressure or tightness in the neck, shoulder, or upper back

In the weeks prior to an actual heart attack, some women may experience these symptoms which can be a warning sign of a blocked artery. If you develop unexplained fatigue, shortness of breath, or abdominal pressure that feels like indigestion, call your doctor. It’s important to report all of your symptoms to your health care provider.

If you or someone near you has heart attack symptoms, don't wait for more than 5 minutes to call 911. Have someone else drive you to the emergency room only if you can't call 911 for some reason, experts say. Never drive yourself unless you have no other option.

Calling 911 is the best course of action because emergency medical personnel (EMT) can start treatment, such as oxygen, heart medications, and pain relievers, as soon as they reach you. They can also notify the hospital to begin preparations for tests and treatment.

Before the ambulance arrives, here are some other ways to help yourself or someone else experiencing heart attack symptoms:

-        The patient should chew and swallow an aspirin.
-        The patient should stop all activity, lie still, and try to remain calm.
-        If the patient becomes unconscious, stops breathing, and doesn't respond to stimulation, such as shaking, he or she may be in cardiac arrest. In other words, the heart stops beating. If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is on hand, follow instructions on the device and use it immediately. The device can deliver an electrical shock that can restore normal heart rhythm and make the heart beat again. If the heart doesn't start beating, a trained person should begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
-        If the patient becomes unconscious, doesn't have a pulse, or isn't breathing, a trained person should perform CPR. If you're not CPR-trained, a 911 dispatcher may be able to talk you through the steps until help arrives.
-        If you haven’t heard of hand-only CPR done to the beat of the disco song ‘Stayin Alive’ become familiar with it… It just might save a life.

So you think a heart attack looks like this:

Think again.

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