With a heart attack

17 years ago

In recognition of American Heart Month (February), Aroostook Region 5 EMS and In a Heartbeat, a key initiative of the Dirigo Health Agency’s Maine Quality Forum, remind Mainers that delaying treatment for a heart attack needlessly causes significant damage to the heart and possibly death.     “Despite major advances in medicine, far too many Mainers still die or become severely disabled due to heart attacks, because Emergency Care is not being accessed quickly enough” says Dr. Gus Lambrew, Medical Director of the In a Heartbeat initiative and former Senior Advisor for Science and Quality, American College of Cardiology.
The 2005 Maine Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System shows that 88 percent of Mainers cannot correctly identify the warning signs of a heart attack and the need to call 9-1-1 immediately. “According to the Office of Data, Research, and Vital Statistics, heart attacks caused or contributed to 921 Maine resident deaths in 2004” . By recognizing the signs of heart attack and calling 9-1-1 immediately after symptoms begin, heart muscle can be saved.
Know the Signs of a Heart Attack:
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, while other heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Below are signs of a possible heart attack:
• Chest pain or 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.
• Pain or discomfort in the upper body (one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach)
• Shortness of breath
• Breaking out in a cold sweat
• Nausea
• Lightheadedness
Not all of these signs occur in every heart attack, and sometimes symptoms go away and return. Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Call 9-1-1 immediately: Time lost is heart muscle lost.
Anyone who sees or has any of the listed symptoms should immediately call 9-1-1. Studies show that on average only about half of heart attack victims call 9-1-1. Many of those who don’t call, either die or lose some of their physical capacity.
“Never feel embarrassed to call 9-1-1. EMS is here to help you,” says Jay Bradshaw, director, Maine EMS, and In a Heartbeat Executive Committee member. “We know that it can be difficult to know for sure if you or a loved one is having a heart attack, but we want you to call 9-1-1 and call immediately if you have any symptoms. It’s a call your loved ones will thank you for making.”
Today heart attack victims can benefit from new medications and treatments. And by calling 9-1-1, treatment can begin in the ambulance, before you arrive at the hospital. The emergency room and the cardiac team can be alerted and ready for your arrival, saving precious time.
A part of the State Health Plan, In a Heartbeat is a statewide coalition of medical providers, Emergency Medical Services, Maine Center for Disease Control, community outreach and health advocacy organizations, such as the American Heart Association Northeast Affiliate, working to ensure that Mainers having heart attacks receive timely, quality care, regardless of where they live or work, and where they are treated.
 Steve Corbin is regional coordinator for Aroostook Region 5 EMS, 111 High Street in Caribou; phone is 492-1624 or 1-888-492-1624; and the e-mail is arems@maine.rr.com.