What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs, in most cases, when a vessel supplying the heart muscle with blood and oxygen becomes completely blocked. The vessel has become narrowed by a slow buildup of fatty deposits, made mostly of cholesterol. When a clot occurs in this narrowed vessel, it completely blocks the supply of blood to the heart muscle. That part of the muscle will begin to die if the individual does not immediately seek medical attention. 

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Each year, approximately 1.2 million Americans suffer a heart attack, and nearly one-third of these individuals die, many before they reach the hospital. People often dismiss heart attack warning signs, such as chest pain, and think they merely have heartburn or a pulled muscle. The unfortunate conclusion is that many people wait too long before getting help. 

Minden Medical Center wants everyone to know the Early Heart Attack Symptoms not only for themselves, but for those around who may be experiencing symptoms, and to be able to help them obtain immediate emergency treatment. 

ALSO People may experience mild chest symptoms, such as pressure, burning, aching or tightness. These symptoms may come and go until finally becoming constant and severe. 

Heart attacks are often viewed as a man’s problem when, in fact, more women in the United States die of heart disease each year than men. Women often experience signs and symptoms that are different from those that men experience. This is because smaller arteries may be blocked in women whereas men often have blockage in the main arteries. 

Heart attack signs in women sometimes go unnoticed. They include the following: 
  • Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest, spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw 
  • Light-headedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort 
  • Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort 
  • Lower chest discomfort 
  • Back pain 
  • Unusual fatigue 
  • Unusual shortness of breath 
  • Dizziness 
  • Nausea 

Don’t delay! Don’t take chances! If you have chest pain or other heart attack symptoms, call 911 and seek medical attention immediately. 

Heart Attack? 

Don't wait to be sure. Call 911 

More than 50 percent of all patients experiencing chest pain walk into the ED rather than calling 911. The reasons for this are numerous, ranging from the instinct to just jumping in the car and driving to the nearest hospital to the misunderstanding that the emergency squad is just a transport vehicle. The fact remains: calling 911 starts treatment earlier. 

  • 911 dispatchers are often trained to locate you quickly and assist you in early treatment options 
  • In many areas, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) can diagnosis a heart attack by using an electrocardiogram (ECG) and also initiate early treatment 
  • Arriving by ambulance to the ED helps to ensure that you will not wait to be seen by a physician. Many patients who experience chest pain drive themselves, only to find that they may wait in the ED lobby until they can see the doctor. 
EMS can radio ahead to the ED that you are on your way. This enables the ED staff to be ready for you when you arrive through their doors 

What happens in the ER when you’re having a heart attack?

Time Is Muscle; Time Wasted Is Muscle Lost. This is a familiar slogan to nurses and physicians working in the emergency room when a patient enters with chest pain indicating that a heart attack is in progress. Loss of time is equated to loss of heart muscle, resulting in less life enjoyment that depends on physical activity. The cause of the heart attack is usually a complete blockage of one of the heart vessels; complete destruction of the muscle being supplied by that vessel occurs over a six-hour period of time. 

It is important to note that 85% of muscle damage takes place within the first hour. This is often referred to as the “golden hour.” It is within this timeframe that the heart vessel needs to be opened. If time is lost and the vessel is opened after this timeframe, the benefit is much less. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that action be taken early. Thus the term, “Time is Muscle.” This is a truly an emergency. 

The best way to stop the heart attack process is to detect the symptoms early, before damage to the heart muscle occurs. When considering whether or not to go to the hospital with chest discomfort, or chest pain, it is better to be safe than to be sorry. The heart muscle must be saved, and time is of the essence. 

It is critical for those who experience any chest discomfort or pain to quickly get to the emergency department to be evaluated. Everyone should develop a contingency plan whenever chest discomfort or pain occurs. It’s not the heart attack itself that kills; it is also the time wasted when one is trying to decide whether or not to go to the hospital. 

What can you do? 

Take the EHAC Oath 


For more information about heart disease and prevention or to take the EHAC Course to become a certified Deputy Heart Attack visit http://www.deputyheartattack.org/questionaire.html