Everything you wanted to know about heart disease… (Part IV)

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The symptoms below can be signs that you may be experiencing a myocardial infarction-otherwise known as a heart attack.

A heart attack happens when blood flow to the heart is stopped for any reason. Most commonly, this happens due to fatty deposits called plaque building up along the arteries and making them narrower. Sometimes, a plaque deposit will break off and narrow the artery even further. Blood clots often form around the bits of broken off plaque, completely shutting down blood flow to the heart. Without blood, the heart is starved of the oxygen it needs and begins to die-a heart attack. This process can produce some or all of the symptoms below:

*Chest Pain

Chest pain is the stereotypical symptom of a heart attack. Usually, heart attack sufferers describe it as an intense, crushing pain. Sometimes it radiates to the left arm, the neck and the jaw. For some people, the pain is accompanied by a pins-and-needles sensation, as though the arm had gone to sleep. However, it’s important to realize that only a little over 50% of the patients who experience a heart attack actually have chest pain. So, make sure you are also aware of the other possible symptoms.

*Pain in the arms or abdomen

*Nausea

*Profuse sweating, even when you might be in a cool environment

*Angor animi: A feeling of absolute terror caused by a sense of approaching death

*Dizziness, light-headedness and loss of consciousness

*Feeling like you are “out of breath” for no apparent reason

*Becoming extremely and unusually tired after physical activity

What to do if you have a heart attack

If you begin experiencing any combination of the symptoms listed above, you could be having a heart attack. If you have had episodes of angina before, it may be hard to tell the difference between a heart attack and a severe episode of angina. Try taking 3 doses of angina medication every 5 minutes or until the chest pain goes away. If the pain persists after 15 minutes or 3 doses of medication, you are probably having a heart attack instead of just experiencing angina.

The first action to take if you suspect that you or someone you are with is having a heart attack is to call 911 or an ambulance immediately. If you’re alone, DO NOT attempt to drive yourself. Even if you think you can make it, you could suddenly lose consciousness and be involved in an unwanted car accident.

The next step is to chew an aspirin if one is available. Aspirin helps break up blood clots, and most heart attacks are caused by a combination of plaque and blood clots blocking the coronary arteries. Chewing it may not taste very pleasant, but it will get the aspirin into your bloodstream much faster that swallowing the pill whole. When the ambulance arrives, make sure to advise the emergency personnel that you have taken aspirin already so they don’t give you more. The emergency crew will assess the situation and get you to the hospital as quickly as possible. Many people are afraid to call an ambulance due to the cost. Or, they may be unsure of their symptoms, and not want to be rushed to the hospital for what might be a false alarm. However, if you suspect a heart attack, it’s really in your best interest to make that phone call and get proper help. There are many advantages to being picked up by an ambulance, and if you indeed are experiencing a heart attack, it’s definitely worth the extra cost.

For example, if your heart has stopped, the paramedics can try to revive you using special equipment. They also carry heart medicine, medications to break up clots, medicine to relieve pain and portable machines to monitor your heart rate. Another advantage of calling an ambulance, instead of being driven by a friend or family member, is that people who come into the ER by ambulance get care faster than people who are admitted in the waiting room. The ambulance personnel can start evaluating your condition immediately and sometimes they can call ahead to let the hospital know you are coming and what your current condition is. This alone can enhance your survival if you are critical.

 

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