• If a Heart Attack Strikes, Will You Recognize the Symptoms?


    Do you know the symptoms of a heart attack? Would you call 9-1-1 if you or someone you were with was experiencing the warning signs?

    Many people who suffer a heart attack either don’t recognize the signs or dismiss them. Although “It can’t be happening to me!” is a natural reaction, it’s in your best interest to play it safe and get checked out. To improve the odds of survival and of preserving heart muscle function, it is crucial to recognize the symptoms; call 9-1-1; and be treated at a hospital equipped with a cardiac catheterization lab. Keep reading to learn more.

    Recognize the Symptoms

    Recognize the symptoms, which are most typically described as a pressure or squeezing central chest discomfort. It's important to remember that heart attack patients have also described pain in the upper arm, across the back, up into the neck and jaw. Others have described it as heartburn, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain. Women’s symptoms may be different, and could include sudden onset of weakness; shortness of breath; nausea or vomiting; indigestion; fatigue; and an overall feeling of illness; mild discomfort in the back, chest, arm, neck or jaw; or sleep disturbance. Learn more about women and heart disease here.

    Don’t forget:  Not all patients who have a heart attack experience chest pain.  

    Call 9-1-1 

    Call 9-1-1 so emergency responders can run an ECG (also known as an EKG or electrocardiogram) before arriving at the hospital. The ambulance can send the results to the hospital. Based on the findings, they may alert an interventional cardiologist to be standing by. Can you do that driving in your car? No way, but the emergency responders can. Learn how having an EKG before you even arrive at the hospital could save your life.

    Be Treated at a Hospital Equipped with a Cardiac Catheterization Lab

    A patient who comes in with a major heart attack (called a STEMI) is usually taken directly to cardiac catheterization lab, where a minimally invasive procedure known as angioplasty and stenting is performed.  The interventional cardiologist uses a thin flexible tube (a catheter) to locate and treat the blocked artery that is causing the heart attack.

    For most patients, opening the blocked artery restores blood flow, stopping the ongoing damage and the heart begins to recover. Many heart attack patients spend only a few days in the hospital before returning home. Recovery then includes working with doctors to develop a plan for treating the underlying cardiovascular disease and preventing another heart attack. This usually includes making lifestyle changes, taking medicines as prescribed, and attending a cardiac rehabilitation program.

    Click here to learn more about heart attacks, especially symptoms to watch out for and steps to take if you experience these symptoms.

    Acting fast can make all the difference for people suffering a heart attack. It may make the difference between life and death, or how much the heart muscle is damaged. Tony Spagnoletti, a firefighter who suffered a heart attack in his fire station, is alive today because he called for help and his fellow firefighters moved fast to get him diagnosed and treated. Watch his amazing story of survival and recovery.