Act In Time

February 19, 2015

This column has a simple but critical message: “Act in Time to Heart Attack Signs.” What does it mean? Quick response with medical intervention can prevent permanent heart damage or even save your life! Many people are embarrassed to call 911 for help if they aren’t sure they are having a heart attack. This is very unfortunate because quick action can save a life. Many heart attacks start slowly with a mild pain or discomfort or feeling like you have indigestion. Symptoms can differ between men and women.  The symptoms can come and go. Why does a quick response make such a big difference in survival rates? The answer is because clot-busting drugs and other artery opening treatments can stop a heart attack in its tracks, thus preventing or limiting damage.  But they need to be started immediately after symptoms begin; the sooner the better! Ideally the time frame is ASAP (as soon as possible.) This doesn’t leave much time to debate whether or not you should seek treatment!

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?  The warning signs are:

 Chest pain or discomfort.  Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and come back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. This can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. This often occurs along with chest discomfort. But it can also occur before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, vomiting, light-headedness, dizziness, unusual fatigue or feeling like you have indigestion, but it doesn’t go away.

 For women, the warning sign of chest pain or discomfort may be less pronounced than it is in men or may not occur at all.  It may present in the  lower chest or upper abdomen. Because heart attack symptoms may be less severe in women, it may make it harder to identify and diagnose. It is sometimes  mistaken for another illness. Women should take note of any of the symptoms noted above and seek care if they are persistent.    

In the old days, heart attacks meant sure death. But in today’s world, life can go on for many years following a heart attack. Learn to recognize the signs of a heart attack and take quick action if a heart attack is suspected. The experts say wait no more than 5 minutes. Who should you call if you suspect a heart attack? The answer is 911. Emergency medical personnel can start you on treatment the moment they arrive on the scene.  If a family member or friend takes you, you delay treatment and decrease the odds of survival. Don’t even stop to take an aspirin.  The EMS can do that on the way to the hospital. Remember, it is quick action that saves lives from heart attacks. Don’t be embarrassed. Be proactive! Congratulations to Woodbridge and North Haven for having earned the distinction of being a HeartSafe community. This means that there are ordinary citizens who are trained to administer CPR and use AED’s (automated external defibrillators.) This can lead to rapid access to life-saving treatment.  For an information packet on this topic, QVHD residents can call 203 248-4528 or request on line, dculligan@qvhd.org