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The Healthy Geezer: Heart Attack (Part I)

Originally Posted: April 09, 2012

Fred Cicetti

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Aspirin reduces mortality from heart attacks. (Courtesy Photo: nhlbi.nih.gov)

Southampton - The Healthy Geezer answers common health related questions:

Q. If you think you're having a heart attack, should you take aspirin?

A blood clot in a coronary artery narrowed by cholesterol and other substances is the usual cause of a heart attack. Aspirin keeps blood moving through constricted arteries. Therefore, paramedics may give aspirin when they respond to an emergency to treat a heart-attack victim.

Aspirin reduces mortality from heart attacks. But taking aspirin is a subject you should discuss with your doctor. Aspirin could hurt you if your symptoms are caused by a different health problem.

Doctors call a heart attack a "myocardial infarction." Loosely translated, the term means heart-muscle death. The clogged artery prevents oxygenated blood from nourishing the heart. This can lead to pain, the death of heart cells, scar tissue and fatal arrythmias.

About 1.1 million Americans have a heart attack every year. About 460,000 of those heart attacks are fatal. About half the fatalities happen within an hour after symptoms begin and before the victim gets to a hospital.

How do you know if you're having a heart attack?

Here Are Common Warning Signs:

(1) Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. It may pause for a while and then restart. The discomfort can be in the form of pain or pressure. Some experience a squeezing or feeling of fullness.

(2) Pain in shoulders, arms, back, upper abdomen, neck and jaw.

(3) Shortness of breath

(4) Cold sweat

(5) Nausea

(6) Lightheadedness

(7) Anxiety

Angina pectoris is the medical term for chest pain or discomfort usually caused by coronary artery disease. Angina (pronounced "an-JI-nuh" or "AN-juh-nuh") is not a heart attack. However, there's a higher risk of a heart attack if you have angina.

It is often difficult to tell the difference between a heart attack and angina. If you get angina, you should get medical attention immediately. Exertion brings on angina. It's usually relieved by resting or taking angina medicine.

A heart attack can happen anytime - during exertion or at rest. Some heart attacks are like the ones you see in films and on stage; they're sudden and dramatic. However, most heart attacks build gradually over several hours. Many heart-attack victims have symptoms days or weeks in advance.

If you think you're having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. There are drugs that break up clots and open arteries; they work best when given within the first hour after the onset of an attack.

If emergency medical services are not available, ask someone to drive you to the hospital. You shouldn't drive yourself, unless you have no other choice.

While it may seem macabre, planning for a heart attack is intelligent. Having a basic plan in place could save time and a life. Map out your steps if an attack happened at home or at work. For example, decide who would care for any dependents. And discussing aspirin with your doctor in advance will give you a clear course of action if you have a heart attack.


EdVossen says::
In January I experience a mild heart attack in the ER room at my local hospital in Stuart, FL. The German in me said drive to the hospital as we live but 5 minutes away. I fiqured that by the time the EMT crew came to our condo I would already be at the hospital. Not a smart idea! On the way I became nauseous and when we walked into the ER they did a Code Black, dropped everyone and attended to me. In the ER I had a mild heart attack followed by quintuple by pass the next morning. This from someone who in their 74 years was never sick a day in his life. Luckily for me I am a cyclist and was in good shape other than the fact that my arteries were closing up on me. 96% blocked in one major artery. Dr. explained that I was able to overcome the lack of blood supply but eventually it didn't matter. Moral of the story, pay attention to signs that your body gives you. My cycling club does a 65 mile ride every major holiday. 4-5 years ago I was able to keep up with the group, two years ago was dropped 40 miles into the ride and last July 4th dropped at less than 20 miles. I thought it was due to old age catching up. Not so. Pay attention to your bodies warnings!
Apr 14, 2012 4:02 pm


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