February is Heart Month; Remember to take any type of chest pain seriously

Seek help for any heart attack signs or symptoms ... Pictured above is one of Veterans Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Rooms. February is National Heart Month. Anyone that is experiencing any type of chest discomfort, weakness or shortness of breath should consult medical assistance immediately. Because time is muscle, the quicker the heart attack can be stopped, the less muscle will be lost, and the better one’s chances for recovery. Submitted photo.

by Diane Butikofer, RN, ER Supervisor at VMH

Individuals who experience any type of chest pain need to take that pain very seriously and seek medical assistance. There is always the possibility that pain may be caused by a heart attack or some other form of heart disease and must not be ignored. Immediate medical attention is the only way to stop or decrease the damage to the heart.

The common signs and symptoms of a heart attack include the following:

1. Any type of chest pain. It may be a crushing pain, a feeling of heaviness such as an elephant standing on one’s chest, or even a squeezing of the chest.
2. Pain that radiates down the arm, or other areas of the body such as the neck, jaw or shoulders.
3. Weakness or shortness of breath, nausea, light headedness and/or possible sweating.

A heart attack is permanent damage to a part of the heart muscle. This damage is caused by a lack of blood supply and oxygen to that part of the muscle usually due to a clot or build up of plaque that blocks an artery.

Anyone experiencing signs of a heart attack should call 911 immediately. Time is muscle. The longer one waits to seek medical attention, the more heart muscle is likely to be damaged due to the heart attack. Ambulance personnel will take you to the hospital where nurses and physicians trained in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) can treat the heart attack and possibly stop further damage to the heart muscle. In addition, all ambulance services in this area are equipped with automatic defibrillators in the case a heart attack would completely stop the heart from beating. Again, time is muscle. The less muscle lost, the better one’s chances for recovery.

Veterans Memorial Hospital staff commonly gives “clot busting drugs” such as TNKase to stop or decrease the damage from the heart attack. These types of drugs actually attack the clot that is cutting off the blood flow in the coronary artery. Once the clot is broken down, blood flow can return to the heart muscle and this decreases the damage to the heart muscle.

After a heart attack, it takes  eight to 12 weeks for new blood vessels to form and a scar to develop in the affected area. During this healing process, it is normal to feel weak, but one’s strength should gradually return.

Just because a person has had one heart attack, it doesn’t mean that they will definitely have another, but it does mean that they have some heart disease. To decrease the risk of having a second heart attack, one should seriously consider making some lifestyle changes including an increase in exercise, decrease in stress and eating a heart-healthy diet.

If you or anyone near you is experiencing any kind of chest discomfort, weakness or shortness of breath, seek medical assistance immediately. For more information, call Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411.

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