You’re drifting off to sleep when you’re awakened by a jolt of pain in the center of your chest. It shoots to your back, and nausea sends you stumbling to the bathroom. You have seconds to make your next move. Should you wait it out, jump in the car or call for an ambulance?
Each year, heart attacks strike more than 700,000 Americans. Fortunately, more than half can call themselves survivors, thanks to accredited chest pain centers, well trained emergency personnel and friends and family members trained in CPR.
Signs of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain, pressure, tightness or fullness
- Pain of discomfort in one or both arms, the jaw, neck, back or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
Women may experience atypical symptoms including intermittent chest pain, cold sweats, unusual fatigue and upper abdominal pressure or discomfort.
In case of an emergency
“If you suspect a heart attack, never drive yourself or allow someone else to drive you to the ER,” said Charity MacNicoll, BSN, clinical coordinator of cardiac cath lab and stress testing at Williamson Medical Center. “Trust your gut, and don’t let fear of embarrassment or a false alarm keep you from getting immediate help. It’s better to err on the safe side. Call 911 immediately and, if not allergic, take a full strength chewable aspirin.”
Minimally invasive options
When a blockage is suspected, patients often undergo cardiac catheterization, a minimally invasive procedure used to detect and evaluate conditions of the heart. The procedure offers patients shorter hospital stays, reduced recovery time without the pain of the large incision and minimal surgical scarring. Catheterization also reduces the risks and recovery time found in traditional surgical approaches. Patients typically experience the best outcomes at medical centers that achieve or exceed the national standards for door-to-balloon time. A critical marker in cardiac care, door-to-balloon time is the time it takes from the minute you arrive in the emergency department to the minute your blockage is cleared and blood flow is restored. The recommended timeframe set by the American Heart Association is 90 minutes, which means every second counts in a cardiac emergency. Fortunately, accredited Chest Pain Centers, like the one at WMC, typically offer an average door-to-balloon time below the national standard.
Following surgery, additional services often required by patients include cardiac stress testing and cardiac rehab, which utilizes physical exercises to help heart patients regain health. Studies show patients who undergo cardiac rehab live longer, healthier lives than those who forgo it. Follow-up care by a cardiologist is also important.
Overcoming risk factors
Jerry Franklin, M.D., cardiologist with Vanderbilt Heart at Williamson Medical Center, said it’s crucial for adults to understand cardiac risk factors and work toward continued improvement. “One of the biggest risk factors for coronary artery disease is stress, which releases adrenaline and increases heart rate and blood pressure,” said Franklin. “Another contributing factor is obesity, as abdominal fat increases LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol.” Additional risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Franklin encourages patients to work with their physician to develop a plan to improve numbers, shed pounds and get active. “A sedentary lifestyle is one of the major risk factors of heart disease,” said Franklin. “Developing a strong, healthy heart will not only help prevent a heart attack, it will drastically increase your chance of surviving a major event.”
About Jerry Franklin, M.D. and Charity MacNicoll, BSN:
Jerry Franklin, M.D., is a board-certified cardiologist with Vanderbilt Heart at Williamson Medical Center. His office can be reached by calling (615) 875-5337. Charity MacNicoll, BSN, clinical coordinator of cardiac cath lab and stress testing at Williamson Medical Center.Share this Article