5th May, 2010 | Source : www.scpcp.org
Many of you have heard by now to be alert to the primary warning signs of an impending heart attack: chest pressure, shortness of breath, nausea and/or lightheadedness. But did you know that many people can experience these signs days before the “event”? Hollywood has conditioned us to understand heart attacks as dramatic, chest clutching, and fast moving occurrences that quickly drop one to the ground. For many people, however, symptoms come earlier, are quieter, and can happen with prior warning.
Heart attacks are not inevitable, but too many of us put off the lifestyle changes that can prevent a heart attack until it’s too late. Behaviors that can contribute to heart attacks include:
- Smoking: Even an occasional cigarette can contribute to greater heart attack risk.
- Weight: With so many Americans overweight, our increasing size can seem the norm. Check body mass against height and age using an online calculator, and look at waist measurements – the higher the number, the higher the risk.
- Diet: Poor dietary habits can increase blood pressure, blood sugar, and bad cholesterol, all contributors to a possible heart attack.
- Exercise: The heart is a muscle, and exercise is a muscle’s best friend. A strong heart can be a great offense against heart disease.
Calling 911 is without doubt the best option for quickly getting to the emergency department, but this option is chosen by only 50% of those experiencing the signs of a heart attack. The other half either drive themselves or have a friend or family member do so. This latter option is not a wise choice. Not only can an ambulance get you into the emergency department sooner so that you can be treated more quickly, but also the treatment can actually start in the ambulance itself. In many cases, the ambulance is no longer just a form of transportation. Some Emergency Medical Services (EMS) units can provide crucial care en route to the hospital. This care may include the administration of medication that can slow damage to the heart and doing an electrocardiogram (ECG), which is a noninvasive method of determining whether or not a heart attack is actually occurring. The ECG results can be sent to the hospital prior to your arrival so that the emergency team is waiting and ready to treat you quickly.
Not all hospitals and EMS ambulances have these efficient processes in place so it is vital to your heart health and that of your friends and families to learn what is available in your area. The Society of Chest Pain Centers (SCPC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the care of the heart patient, is an excellent place to begin investigating the networks in your area.
Hospitals accredited through SCPC undergo a rigorous review of those processes that ensure exemplary heart care. You can find hospitals in your area that have achieved Chest Pain Center accreditation at www.scpcp.org/500 or by contacting the SCPC office at 614-442-5950 or toll free at 1-877-271-4176.