Heart Month video: Calling 911 at first sign of heart attack may save your life
By Kristy Bleizeffer Feb 27, 2016
It seems like common sense: At the first signs of heart attack, call 911. Do not lie down to see if the symptoms pass. Do not ask a friend or loved one to drive you to the hospital. Above all else, don’t think you can drive yourself.
The classic signs of heart attack are a sharp pain in your chest radiating to your left arm. But the warning signs can present as a much wider and harder-to-identify array of symptoms. They may start slowly, presenting as mild pain and discomfort, and may develop over days or weeks. They can feel like symptoms of other ailments, including heart burn, making them easy to discount.
WATCH: Dr. Adrian Fluture describes the warning signs of a heart attack, which may be easy to miss.
Dr. Fluture recommends that you carefully weigh any pain or discomfort “from belt to teeth” if you think you might be suffering a heart attack. Play it safe. If there is any doubt, call 911.
The more of the following symptoms present, the greater the likelihood of heart attack:
- Any pain, tightness, heaviness, pressure or squeezing in the chest. It may even feel like heart burn or a generalized apprehension or uncomfortable feeling.
- Pressure or pain spreading to the neck, jaw, left shoulder or both shoulders. You may feel tingling or numbness in the left arm and forearm, spreading to the inside of the arm. It may migrate to between the shoulder blades or, occasionally, to the back or spine.
- Feelings of fullness, pain or indigestion in the stomach.
- Shortness of breath or cold sweating with no good explanation.
Heart attacks require immediate medical treatment. The saying "time means muscle," meaning the longer you wait, the bigger the chance of death or serious complications.
WATCH: Dr. Fluture explains why ignoring heart attack symptoms could be deadly.
When a patient calls 911, Wyoming Medical Center shaves an average of 10 to 11 minutes off door-to-balloon time – the time from when a patient arrives at the emergency room to the time doctors open the blocked vessel and restore blood flow to the muscle. The shorter the time, the more heart tissue doctors can save.
Let an ambulance drive you
At the first signs of heart attack, call 911. Never drive yourself to the hospital or have someone else drive you.
- You may crash your car: If you suffer a heart rhythm disturbance on the drive, you will likely crash. Worse, you may crash into another car or run over pedestrians. “These are unpredictable things. The thing I tell my patients is they may kill a mom with kids coming from school. Just be responsible,” Fluture said.
- Cardiac resuscitation requires a team effort: Even if a loved one is trained in cardiac resuscitation, one person is not enough. He needs help to arrive as quickly as possible, and calling 911 is the fastest way to get it. If a loved one decides to drive you to the hospital and you go into cardiac arrest, he can’t do anything for you while he’s behind the wheel.
WATCH: Dr. Fluture says calling 911 gives you the best chance of survival in case of a heart attack.
Ambulances are mobile emergency medical clinics. When paramedics reach you, they can treat low blood pressure, administer IVs and aspirin, remove clothing and prep you for immediate admission to the hospital. If you go into cardiac arrest, paramedics are trained with defibrillators and can resuscitate you – at home or en route to the hospital. Casper Fire/EMS crews, which may arrive on emergency scenes before anyone else, also carry and are trained on defibrillators.
“The earlier you get these things done, the higher the chance the patient will survive if heart rhythm disturbance happens,” Fluture said.
Dr. Fluture specializes in cardiology, interventional cardiology and vascular/endovascular medicine at Wyoming Cardiopulmonary Services, 1230 E. First St. in Casper. He is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, interventional cardiology, nuclear cardiology, echocardiography and vascular medicine; and CT Angiography. He is also Director of Regional Myocardial Infarction Care at Wyoming Medical Center. For more information or referrals, call (307) 266-3174.