|ONLINE VERSION||APRIL 2001|
|Health & Welfare -- Heart Attack|
DIAL 9-1-1 FAST
Heart attack and stroke are life-and-death emergencies — every second counts. If you see or have any of the symptoms listed in the following article, call 9-1-1. Not all these signs occur in every attack. Sometimes they go away and return. If some occur, get help fast! Treatment is more effective when given quickly.
Coronary heart disease is America's No. 1 killer. Stroke is No. 3 and a leading cause of serious disability. That's why it's so important to reduce your risk factors, know the warning signs and know how to respond quickly and properly if warning signs occur.
What is a Heart Attack?
Coronary attacks (commonly called heart attacks) result from coronary heart disease (CHD) — a blood vessel disease in the heart. Coronary artery disease (CAD) and ischemic heart disease are other names for coronary heart disease.
What Causes a Heart Attack?
The medical term for heart attack is myocardial infarction. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle itself — the myocardium — is severely reduced or stopped. This occurs when one of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle is blocked.
The blockage is usually from the buildup of plaque (deposits of fat-like substances) due to atherosclerosis. The plaque can eventually tear or rupture, triggering a blood clot to form that blocks the artery and leads to a heart attack. Such an event is sometimes called a coronary thrombosis or coronary occulsion.
If the blood supply is cut off severely or for a long time, muscle cells suffer irreversible injury and die. Disability or death can result, depending on how much heart muscle is damaged.
Sometimes a coronary artery temporarily contracts or goes into spasm. When this happens the artery narrows and blood flow to part of the heart muscle decreases or stops. What causes a spasm is unclear. But spasm can occur in normal-appearing blood vessels as well as vessels partly blocked by atherosclerosis. If a spasm is severe, a heart attack may result.
IF YOU THINK YOU'RE HAVING A HEART ATTACK — CALL YOUR EMERGENCY MEDICAL SYSTEM IMMEDIATELY.
The American Heart Association says the body likely will have one or more of these symptoms:
Pressure in Chest / Spreading Pain / Lightheadedness, Sweating or Nausea
The most common or "classic" warning signals of a heart attack are:
1. Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the
center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away
and comes back.
Less common warning signs of a heart attack are:
1. Atypical chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain.
Not all these signs occur in every attack. Sometimes they go away and return. If some occur, GET HELP FAST. If you notice one or more of these signs in another person, DON'T WAIT. Call your emergency medical services so the person can get to a hospital right away!
How do I know if a heart attack has occurred?
A physician who's studied the results of several tests must make the actual diagnosis of a heart attack. The doctor will review the patient's complete medical history, give a physical examination, use an electrocardiogram (EKG) to discover any abnormalities caused by damage to the heart and sometimes use a blood test to detect abnormal levels of certain enzymes in the bloodstream.
Blood tests confirm (or refute) suspicions raised in the early stages of evaluation that may occur in an emergency room, intensive care unit or urgent care setting. These tests are sometimes called heart damage markers or cardiac enzymes.
The American Heart Association does not endorse c-CPR, a coughing procedure widely publicized on the Internet. The reason is that c-CPR is so far a poorly studied procedure with limited potential for clinical application. It can theoretically sustain cardiac output for a short time until someone who can do CPR or administer Advanced Cardiac Life Support arrives. This is provided the victim recognizes that his or her pulse has stopped prior to unconsciousness and is able to cough vigorously for a prolonged period. There are no studies to determine if this procedure provides any better odds of survival than calling 9-1-1 under the same conditions.
The best strategy is to be aware of the early warning signs for heart attack and respond to them by calling 9-1-1. If you're driving alone and you start having severe pain in your chest that starts to spread into your arm and up into your jaw (the scenario presented in the recently circularted article on the Internet), you should pull over and flag down another motorist for help.
The American Heart Association also suggests that people consider taking a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training course offered in most American communities. You can contact the AHA to find a class site near you.