Monday, September 29, 2008

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

Yesterday was an unsettling and sad day for us. Our cousin (in-law) Lia lost her mom to what we think was a heart attack. She had no history of heart or lung disease and no family history either. She had not been sick. It was sudden and definitely not expected. Lia, her mom, her sister and her aunt did not know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. She was not having typical chest pain, which is not unusual for women. So, in her memory I want to list the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. This is according to the American Heart Association website and I have added my comments in ( ).

1)Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. (There's an elephant sitting on my chest.)
2)Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
3)Shortness of breath. This feeling may occur with or without chest discomfort.
4)Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. (Indigestion or a worsening of GERD).

I also want to stress that you don't necessarily have to have all or even more than one of these symptoms to be having a heart attack. You don't even have to have chest pain or pressure to be having a heart attack. One of the biggest reasons that people don't seek immediate help is that they aren't sure it's really a heart attack or they think they will be embarrased by going to the ER and then it is something simple. It is much better to call 911 and get the the ER and have them tell you that it's not a heart attack or stroke or whatever, than to stay home and it really is a heart attack, etc. Remember the faster you get help the better the outcome.

The other thing I want to urge all of you to do, besides making sure that all of your family and friends know the symptoms of a heart attack, is to take a CPR class. I can't tell you how important this is. If someone you love needs help, you want to be able to provide it. Yes, the 911 operator will try to talk you through CPR, but if you've had the class, it will give you the confidence to do CPR effectively until help arrives. It's not a hard class and you can take it with a friend or family member. Check with the American Heart Association, The Red Cross, your local hospital or your community center to find a class near you. You will never regret taking the class. If you have taken a CPR class, good for you! If you need a refresher course, take one. Even doctors and nurses have to retake CPR every two years.

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