FEBRUARY IS HEART MONTH: CAN YOU SPOT A HEART ATTACK?
February is heart month. Did you know a heart attack strikes someone about every 43 seconds? It occurs when the oxygen-rich blood flow in your arteries to your heart is severely reduced or cut off completely. As there is a slow gradual buildup of plaque – fat, cholesterol and other substances – over time, called atherosclerosis, the arteries become more narrow. When plaque within a artery breaks, a blood clot forms and may block the blood flow to the heart muscle.
Ischemia results when the heart muscle is starved for oxygen and nutrients. When damage or death of part of the heart muscle occurs as a result of ischemia, it’s called a heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI).
The longer your heart has limited blood flow, the more damage occurs. Because silent heart attacks may go unnoticed, they can cause a significant amount of damage. And without treatment, can turn deadly.
1. UPPER BODY DISCOMFORT
You feel pressure, tightness, heaviness, burning, squeezing, or aching in the chest that moves to the arms—everyone experiences it a little differently. Women are more likely than men to experience some of the other symptoms, particularly pain in the jaw and back.
2. SHORTNESS OF BREATH
You suddenly feel dizzy, lightheaded, and extremely weak. You start taking in deep breaths or are panting for air like you were just running, but you weren’t.
3. ABDOMINAL DISCOMFORT
You feel heartburn, indigestion, or pain in your stomach. You might have nausea and throw up.
4. UNUSUAL FATIGUE
Your usual exercise routine leaves you worn out. You feel extremely tired, even with everyday activities like carrying the groceries.
5. COLD SWEAT
Your skin gets cold and clammy suddenly.
WHAT TO DO DURING A HEART ATTACK
If you think someone is having a heart attack, do not wait until more symptoms appear. A heart attack is a medical emergency, and can be deadly. The sooner a person gets treatment, the better chance they have at survival and recovery.
- Call 9-1-1 right away. Don’t ignore or try to wait for the symptoms to go away. Paramedics are trained to treat people on the way to the hospital and offer the fastest transport there.
- Chew and swallow aspirin. If able, have the person chew and swallow aspirin while waiting for the paramedics, unless they are allergic or have another medical condition that makes taking aspirin dangerous. If they are prescribed nitroglycerin, take one and chew and swallow it.
- Have the person sit down, rest, and keep calm.
- Begin CPR. If the person is unconscious or unresponsive, you may be told by the 9-1-1 dispatcher to begin CPR. If you do not know how to give CPR, the dispatcher should be able to give you the correct steps to follow until help arrives or watch an online video if your iPhone is with you.
To learn more about coronary artery disease prevention and treatment and how to recognize a heart attack, reach out to local cardiology programs in Horry County such as the following.
Medical University of South Carolina – Health Cardiology at South Strand
As always, if you have any questions about your senior loved one’s health concerns, please reach out to our Amethyst Home Care @ (800) 476-7059.