A heart attack is a life threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention. The sooner a heart attack patient is taken to the hospital for intervention, the greater the chances of survival. As in stroke, every minute counts. The medical term for heart attack is myocardial infarction, referred to commonly as MI.
Not all heart attacks begin with the sudden, crushing chest pain that most of us have heard about. In fact, some cause no symptoms at all, especially those that happen to people with diabetes.
Many times a heart attach may begin slowly, with mild pain and discomfort. It can happen while you’re at rest or active. How severe it is can depend on your age, gender, and medical conditions. Women and diabetics are prime candidates for a silent heart attack, where the symptoms may be absent or so mild that the patient is hardly aware of any changes.
Treatment for MI has improved wondrously over the years. If you think you might be having a heart attack, or any of the following symptoms, call your local emergency services immediately:
Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back
Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
Shortness of breath
Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
WHAT TO DO WHILE YOU ARE AWAITING EMERGENCY HELP TO ARRIVE:
- Call emergency services immediately if you suspect that you or someone around you has symptoms that are suspicious for a heart attack.
- If you have aspirin at hand and are not allergic, or have not been told by your doctor to avoid taking it, take it immediately. Usually the recommended dose for aspirin during a heart attack episode is 300mg, which should be chewed, then swallowed.
- If you have nitroglycerin at hand, take two puffs underneath the tongue. It helps relieve pressure on your arteries by dilating them.
- If a person around you is unconscious and you suspect heart attack, check for pulse and perform CPR.
- Follow instructions of the emergency services personnel when they arrive, and try to remain calm.