Heart Attack Facts
- The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that heart attack prevention implementation begin at age 20!
- 1 in every 4 deaths in 2008 were caused by a heart attack.
- 47% of sudden death cases related to heart disease occurred outside of the hospital. This indicates that many people do not act on early warning signs.
- Ethnicity matters! African-Americans are at highest risk for a heart attack followed by American Indians, Asians, Hispanics, and then Caucasians.
- About half of individuals that die from a heart attack, die within 1 hour if its start.
- According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010 the leading cause of death for Americans was heart disease.
Introduction to Heart Attack Prevention
The nation’s “Number One Killer” can be a stealthy one. If this is the case, what can you do to make sure you are not one of its victims?
While there are endless recommendations on heart attack prevention strategies, there are three particular things that you should know in order to prevent a heart attack from killing you or a loved one. They are as follows:
- Do Not Ignore Your Symptoms
- Take a Chewable Aspirin Immediately (Consult MD)
- Call 911 Right Away
Let’s take a look at each one of these recommendations and their rationale. At the bottom of the article there are additional resources as well that can help you in earlier prevention strategies that may help you avoid having to have a heart attack at all.
1: Don’t Ignore Your Symptoms
It is critical that at the first sign of symptoms action be taken. It is to easy to ignore symptoms thinking “I can tough it out” or “it is probably nothing.” It is important to realize that many symptoms of a heart attack may mimic other more common ailments such as heartburn, when really it is the early symptom of a deadly heart attack. So take some time to learn the symptoms, common AND uncommon and remember not to hesitate to activate 911 at the presentation of any of these. It is much better to call 911 and it just be heartburn than to “wait it out” and it be too late to save you. Here are some of the more common symptoms of a heart attack:
- Chest Pain/Discomfort
- The pain may feel like a minor ache, pressure, or squeezing. This may come and go. Some even report more severe pain feeling as though there is a heavy weight on their chest.
- Nausea and Vomitting
- This may come and go as well, it may be accompanied by other symptoms or none at all.
- Many feel as though there is a sense of impending doom for no apparent reason at all.
- Stomach Pain/Discomfort
- It is not uncommon for people to feel like they have indigestion and to attempt to alleviate it with antacids, however there ends up being no relief.
- Depending on the type of heart attack, sometimes a feeling of dizziness occurs like you may pass out. Some may even pass out all together and “come to” confused.
- Jaw and/or Arm Pain/Discomfort
- It is not uncommon to have pain moving from your chest into your jaw, shoulder, arms, or back. You may not have any chest pain at all but experience pain in these areas.
- Suddenly breaking into a sweat is frequently a symptom of a heart attack
- Shortness of Breath
- Sudden and/or intermittent episodes of difficulty breathing are not uncommon. You may feel as though you just can’t catch your breath, especially when exerting yourself. Again, this may or may not be accompanied with other symptoms.
Some of the less common symptoms of a heart attack are just as important to learn. Like the more common symptoms they may be accompanied by other symptoms, or present by themselves.
- Fatigue and or Exhaustion
- Insomnia or restlessness
- Flu Like Symptoms
- Intestinal Cramping
2: Take a Chewable Aspirin Immediately
**Remember, you should always consult your doctor before taking any medications. So consult them NOW about this topic. Do not wait until it is too late to know if you should take an aspirin during a hear attack.
It has been demonstrated by many studies that taking a chewable low dose aspirin during a heart attack can greatly increase your chances of survival. Why? Aspirin is a platelet De-aggregator; in other words the objects in your body partially responsible for forming blood clots (platelets) are De-activated by aspirin, allowing for blood to flow around the obstruction that may be causing your heart attack.
Why a chewable aspirin? Chewable aspirin will enter the blood much faster than a swallowed coated aspirin. But remember, you must chew it! Swallowing a chewable aspirin is no different from swallowing a coated aspirin. If you only have low dose coated aspirin, it is better to take this than no aspirin at all.
DO NOT DELAY IN CALLING 911 in order to take your aspirin. Call 911 first and then do your best to take your aspirin before EMS arrives.
If you believe a loved one is having a heart attack, do not try to force them to take an aspirin if they are unable to on their own. This could result in them choking and could end up causing more harm than good.
3: Call 911 RIGHT AWAY!
When having a heart attack, seconds matter. This is why NOT ignoring your symptoms is so important. Therefore, it is also critical to activate 911 as soon as possible! EMS can provide you with advanced care/medications that can save your life in the event of a heart attack, they are not just there for a quick ride to the hospital. Not only can they give advanced medications, but they can determine by performing tests as to whether or not you need to go to the ER or immediately to the catheterization lab for immediate vessel repair/clearing.
Do NOT attempt to drive yourself to the hospital in the event of a heart attack. It may be acceptable to have another drive you to meet the rescue squad in special circumstances, however this is not recommended and a physician should be consulted in advance if you feel this may be necessary. In areas such as Augusta County, VA; where there is a well established EMS system with Advanced Life Support capabilities on ambulances, it is more beneficial to activate 911 as soon as possible and let the experts worry about getting you to where you need to go.
What If My Loved One or I Do Have A Heart Attack?
Remember the three steps above!
After following these steps, there are other things to consider.
- Other Medications
- Frequently, you or your loved one may have other medications that may have been prescribed in order to help with a possible heart attack.
- Some individuals are given Nitroglycerine tabs to take in case of chest pain that is cardiac related.
- Others may have medications like aspirin that help as well.
- Always remember to only take other medications as prescribed! If you have questions regarding other medications that may help in the event of a heart attack ask your doctor now, don’t wait until it is too late.
- If you or your loved one has oxygen for a medical condition make sure you are using it in the event of a heart attack. This will help the heart get as much oxygen as possible and reduce heart muscle death.
- Keep Immobile
- Do not exert yourself. If you feel dizzy lie down, otherwise keep seated in a position of comfort. Exerting yourself can worsen and/or speed up heart muscle death.
- Call a friend
- After you have called 911 call a friend or someone close by. In the event that your condition worsened before rescue arrives, a close friend or neighbor can be there to help you and inform the EMS crew. Also, contact any family you can in the meantime to meet you at the hospital.
- If it is not you having the heart attack, be prepared and try to refresh your CPR knowledge if you have any, or contact someone close by that may know CPR, if you have called 911 they should be able to walk you through how to perform CPR. There is a possibility that the heart attack could worsen before EMS arrives and CPR performed immediately could save the individual’s life.
- Don’t know CPR and want to? Staunton-Augusta Rescue Squad periodically offers CPR courses. Visit our Education and Training page to learn more or contact us. Also The Central Shenandoah Emergency Medical Services Council periodically offers courses.
If you would like additional heart attack prevention resources. Please visit any of the below sites. They are all excellent sources that will help you in preventing and preparing for a heart attack.
- Mayo Clinic Heart Attack Prevention
- Medication Free Strategies
- American Heart Association (AHA) Heart Attack Treatment and Prevention
- Medicine Net Heart Attack Education and Prevention Page
- Medicine Net Vitamins and Exercise for Heart Attack Prevention Page
- Society for heart Attack Prevention and Eradication
- The Heart Attack Prevention Center
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Heart Attack Prevention