July 17, 2018
Health & Fitness
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What You Can Do At The First Sign Of A Heart Attack

Dr. Ratnakar Mukherjee - UM BWMC
Dr. Ratnakar Mukherjee - UM BWMC's picture
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August 10, 2017

When you think of someone having a heart attack, what images enter your mind? Most people think of someone older, usually male and out of shape, clenching their chest in excruciating pain. However, heart attacks can occur in anyone, at any age, and women are just as likely to suffer a heart attack as men. Symptoms can vary from person to person. The key to surviving a heart attack is what you do before and during the event. It can be the difference between life and death.

Chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack and can range from a feeling of heaviness to severe and unrelenting pain. Heart attacks can also cause upper back pain, which can radiate down either arm. Neck or jaw discomfort can also indicate a heart attack, particularly in women. Sweating and nausea also are symptoms, and patients usually feel ill and may or may not have chest pain. This can also be accompanied by a feeling of weakness or becoming lightheaded.

Time is the most important factor that determines survival of a heart attack. It is critical to get immediate medical help. Call 911 and never try to drive yourself; have someone else drive you to the hospital. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has life-saving drugs and pain medication on hand and also has a defibrillator in case your heart stops and needs to be restarted. EMS is equipped with technology that communicates directly to the emergency room, allowing medical staff to prepare for your arrival, view your vital signs and other information in real time, and implement a treatment plan.

Almost all heart attack patients are given aspirin immediately upon arrival at the hospital. Aspirin helps to thin the blood, which helps circulation and minimizes damage from heart attacks. If your arrival at the hospital is delayed for any reason, it is recommended that you chew one full-strength aspirin or two baby aspirins. If possible, tell the medical staff if you have taken aspirin and how much you have taken so they can adjust any medications.

Heart attacks are scary but do not have to be fatal. Know your risk factors and adjust your lifestyle if necessary. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise and don’t smoke! Many people avoid medical help because they refuse to believe they could be experiencing a heart attack. A hospital visit for a false alarm will be much easier on your loved ones than the alternative.

Dr. Ratnakar Mukherjee is an interventional cardiologist with the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center. For more information, call 410-768-0919. UM BWMC is located at 301 Hospital Drive in Glen Burnie and can be found online at www.mybwmc.org.

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