Did you know that Coronary artery disease, which causes heart attacks, is the single leading cause of death in America. Each year, more than 1 million Americans suffer heart attacks, and nearly one-third do not survive. Recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack and getting medical help right away can dramatically improve a person’s chances for survival. It is important that you know if someone is having a heart attack so you can react quickly.
Common symptoms include:
• Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
• Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, jaw, arms, or back.
• Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, intense or unusual sweating, nausea, palpitations, or shortness of breath.
Not all of these signs occur in every attack. Sometimes they go away and return. Often people think they have a bad case of indigestion and ignore the signs. It is far better to be sent home from the hospital with a diagnosis of indigestion, than have a heart attack and stay at home alone. So please, if you notice one or more of these signs in yourself or another person, don't wait. Call your Emergency Medical Services right away ("9-1-1"), and get to your local Emergency Department.
Time is crucial. Emergency Medical doctors may use Thrombolytic therapy, which is the use of drugs to dissolve blood clots in coronary arteries. Studies have shown that when given promptly to qualifying patients, the clot-busting therapy can restore blood flow to the heart, increase survival, reduce the size of damage to heart muscle, as well as prevent neurological damage.
Until the ambulance comes - Stop all physical activity. Lie down, loosen clothing around your chest, and remain calm until the ambulance arrives. If possible have someone stay with you until the ambulance arrives. If you are with someone who may be having a heart attack, they may become unconscious, check for breathing and pulse; if absent, and if you are trained to do it, begin CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
Do not attempt to drive the person to the hospital in a car. If he or she should get worse, there is nothing you could do to help in the car. Professionally trained Ambulance crews have the necessary training, equipment, and medications to care for a heart attack patient.
This information is provided by Lawrence R. Schiff, MD, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Eastern Long Island Hospital.
EASTERN LONG ISLAND HOSPITAL 201 Manor Place, Greenport, NY 11944 (631) 477-1000 FAX 477-8218