Do you know how to identify the symptoms of a heart attack? If not, learning them may be an important step to saving your life or the life of someone you love.
Coronary heart disease remains the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Nearly one-third of all deaths over the age of 35 in the U.S. results from coronary heart disease. Yet, considerable progress has been made in improving this statistic over the last several decades.
Continued success in this arena depends on the competence of health-care organizations and awareness on the part of the general public about when and how to seek care for heart disease.
First, it is important to understand coronary heart disease results from the gradual and/or sudden blockage of blood flow in the arteries that feed the heart muscle. Atherosclerosis is a process of plaque buildup in the arteries. Commonly, a heart attack is the consequence of sudden blockage of a heart artery resulting from plaque rupture and clot formation.
Major risk factors for coronary heart disease include tobacco smoking, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease. Other risk factors include excess weight, unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle.
Heart attack is a sudden event and can lead to death or severe disability in the form of congestive heart failure. Rapid recognition of a heart attack often permits intervention to reopen the blocked artery, restoring blood flow before permanent heart damage can occur.
Intervention is most effectively undertaken by a skilled cardiologist through a procedure known as cardiac catheterization. In this procedure, a small tube is inserted through the blood vessels into the blocked heart artery, the blockage is identified and re-opened and a small metal tube, known as a stent, is placed in the affected artery to maintain blood flow.
Doctors refer to the “golden hour” as the time after onset of heart attack during which a prompt catheterization procedure can prevent permanent heart damage. This requires rapid identification of the symptoms of a heart attack and activation of the emergency response system.
Rapid identification begins with recognition by the heart attack sufferer of the symptoms of a heart attack. These often include;
Pain, discomfort or pressure in the chest.
Nausea, vomiting or heartburn.
Irregular or rapid heartbeat.
Lightheadedness or dizziness.
Tingling or pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or abdomen.
A cold sweat.
Some or all of these symptoms may be present when a heart attack occurs. When they do occur, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention.
Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a board-certified physician practicing at the Ute Mountain Ute Health Center in Towaoc.