Kathy Welsh

Kathy Welsh

HUDSON VALLEY – About 40% of the 1.1 million heart attacks that occur annually in the U.S. are fatal – don’t be one of them.

The American Heart Association (AHA) reminds us that when heart attack symptoms are present, don’t wait to call 9-1-1 because timely treatment can mean the difference between life and death.

“Emergency medical professionals including 9-1-1- operators, paramedics and hospital staff work hard to shave minutes off the time it takes to provide proper medical care heart attack or stroke victims to save lives and reduce permanent disability,” said AHA Board Member, David A. Violante, MPH, MPA, AEMT-P, Director of Emergency Medical Services, Arlington Fire District Bureau of EMS.

“Calling 9-1-1 when you or someone else is experiencing heart attack or stroke symptoms is the first step to activate the system. In other words, you are the first, most important link in the chain of survival,” said Violante.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. Waiting too long can cause permanent heart damage as it is deprived of oxygenated blood. If the victim survives after waiting to seek treatment, they may go into congestive heart failure, where the heart is too weak to pump blood. The victim may need a heart transplant—one of the most expensive, complicated medical procedures.

“The best-case scenario is to survive, yes, but to survive without permanent damage to your body’s most important muscle—the heart,” he said, “Call 9-1-1 as soon as possible. Don’t be embarrassed, or think it’s an inconvenience to your family, friends or co-workers. Don’t go home and lie down to rest hoping it will magically go away—we lose far too many people that way. First responders, EMS staff and ER staff are trained, ready, and waiting to help, but you have to make the call first.”

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Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the “movie heart attack,” where no one doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help.

Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Discomfort in other areas of the upper body like in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Here are the American Heart Association’s ten reasons why should you call 9-1-1 first and fast if you or someone nearby is experiencing heart attack symptoms.

  1. Heart attack is a life or death emergency.
  2. Every second wasted can kill heart muscle tissue permanently.
  3. Timely treatment can mean the difference between returning to work and a productive life, or being permanently disabled.
  4. The sooner you get to the emergency room, the sooner treatment can begin, lowering chances of permanent heart muscle damage.
  5. Failing to get emergency care within an hour can result in permanent heart damage.
  6. 9-1-1 operators can provide instructions than can help save your life.
  7. EMS providers can monitor your vital signs and transmit them to the hospital so they are ready for your specific case when you arrive.
  8. EMS will begin case-specific treatment immediately, increasing chances of survival.
  9. EMS will take you quickly and directly to a hospital that can provide specialized care.
  10. If you drive, you could injure yourself or others if your symptoms worsen while driving.

The AHA recommends that everyone learn the symptoms of the medical emergencies of heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest and stroke. And if you or someone near you is experiencing the symptoms, don’t delay, call 9-1-1 right away. Learn more at www.heart.org/warningsigns.

Heart attacks can cause sudden cardiac arrest–when the heart stops beating, or beats irregularly and the victim is unresponsive. If you see someone suddenly collapse from sudden cardiac arrest, call 9-1-1 and begin Hands-Only™ CPR by pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest until the ambulance arrives. Watch a one-minute video here to learn Hands-Only CPR. www.heart.org/handsonlycpr.

FACTS:

Do you know the difference between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest?

Heart attacks are caused by a blockage that stops blood flow to the heart. Your heart muscle needs oxygen to survive. A coronary or heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly become thicker and harder from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are called plaque. This slow process is known as atherosclerosis . When a plaque in a heart artery breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque. This blood clot can block the artery and shut off blood flow to the heart muscle. When the heart muscle is starved for oxygen and nutrients, it is called ischemia. When damage or death of part of the heart muscle occurs as a result of ischemia, it is called a heart attack or myocardial infarction (MI). About every 34 seconds, someone in the United States has a myocardial infarction (heart attack).

Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions. In cardiac arrest (also called sudden cardiac death or SCD), death results because the heart suddenly stops working properly. This is caused by abnormal, or irregular, heart rhythms (called arrhythmias). The most common arrhythmia in cardiac arrest is ventricular fibrillation. This is when the heart’s lower chambers suddenly start beating chaotically and don’t pump blood. Death occurs within minutes after the heart stops. Cardiac arrest may be reversed if CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is performed and a defibrillator is used to shock the heart and restore a normal heart rhythm within a few minutes. Nearly 400,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur annually in the US. Approximately 90% of sudden cardiac arrest victims die because they didn’t receive CPR from a bystander on the scene.

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