Early Heart Attack Care: Know How to Recognize the Beginnings of a Heart Attack

Heart Attack Warning SignsEvery 25 seconds, someone in the United States will have a coronary event, and every minute someone will die of one. This is one of a number of alarming statistics about heart attacks, which are still the leading cause of deaths for both men and women in the U.S. While hospitals and healthcare providers have made major in-roads in providing rapid and highly effective treatment for acute cardiac events, patients are not always aware of the early warning signs and may delay seeking treatment.

A study by the American Heart Association found that half the people suffering from heart attack symptoms waited as long as four hours to seek help. When you consider 85 percent of heart damage occurs within the first two hours of a heart attack, even one hour is too long to wait.
According to the Society of Chest Pain Centers (SCPC), about 50% of sudden cardiac deaths happen outside of a hospital, which indicates heart attack victims either are not acting on symptoms or lack awareness of what they are. The SCPC has launched the Early Heart Attack Care (EHAC) campaign to raise awareness that heart attacks have beginnings and these “beginning symptoms” occur in more than 50 percent of heart attack patients.

Early symptoms of heart attack can include:

  • Nausea
  • Pain that travels down one or both arms
  • Jaw pain
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pressure, squeezing or discomfort
  • Back pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of fullness

Additional warning signs can include mild pressure, burning, aching or tightness in the chest that comes and goes until it becomes constant or severe.

Keep in mind not everyone will experience all of these symptoms, and to complicate matters, some heart attack victims experience no symptoms at all. Women’s symptoms can be particularly vague, sometimes seeming more like flu symptoms than a heart attack.

If you think you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 or have someone in your immediate vicinity drive you to the nearest emergency room. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. The more awareness we create around heart attack symptoms, the better chance we have of saving lives.

About Jeffrey Hershey, MD
Dr. Jeffrey HersheyDr. Hershey serves as both chair of the Division of Cardiology and chief of medicine at Emory Johns Creek Hospital. He specializes and is board certified in Cardiology, with additional training in women’s heart health. Hershey is a member of the American College of Cardiology and the American Society of Echocardiography. He also served on the hospital’s team that helped it achieve Chest Pain Center accreditation with PCI (percutaneous coronary intervention).

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