Sunday, May 20, 2012

Health:  Heart Attacks: If You're Stricken, Minutes Matter

A reminder ...

The advice sounds very simple. The best way to survive a heart attack is:

1. Recognize the symptoms.

2. Call 911.

3. Chew an aspirin while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.

But every year, 133,000 Americans die of heart attacks, and another 300,000 die of sudden cardiac arrest—largely because they didn't get help in time.

With most heart attacks, victims do have some warning—but the symptoms can be confusing. The stereotypical "Hollywood heart attack," clutching the chest in agony, is only one scenario. The feeling in the chest may be more squeezing, tightening or heavy pressure. It may radiate down the left arm or up to the jaw or around the back between the shoulder blades, particularly in women. One study found that 71% of women experience flulike symptoms with no chest pain at all.

Both men and women may have indigestion, nausea, lightheadedness, profuse sweating, shortness of breath with little exertion and overwhelming fatigue.

"People whose heart muscle is shutting down often feel really tired, so they lie down and take a nap," says Dr. Alonzo. "That's not a good idea. They may not wake up."

... a study in the New England Journal of Medicine [shows] that women are seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed in mid-heart attack and sent home from the hospital, and a 2005 poll from the American Heart Association that found that only 8% of family-care physicians and 17% of cardiologists were aware that more women have died from heart disease than men every year since 1984.

For much more, see If You're Stricken, Minutes Matter, Yet Many Ignore Signs, Delay Treatment by Melinda Beck, April 16, 2012 at WSJ.com.

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