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Know Heart Attack Symptoms and What to Do

Feb 23, 2015 08:23AM ● By Amy

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By Jeffrey Peebles, M.D. – Southlake Medical Director, 
Complete Care

With February being American Heart Month  we thought this would be a great time to share some information on how people can spot the signs of a heart attack and what they need to do should they experience symptoms. Minutes can make the difference between life and death, so quick action will be a must.

A heart attack can be intense and sudden, but the American Heart Association reports that most actually begin gradually with only mild discomfort or pain. In fact, many people ignore the initial signs and do not call for help until it is too late. These are some of the indications that someone may be having a serious problem:

Upper body discomfort – This can include pain in areas such as the neck, jaw, stomach or back. It can also include discomfort in one or both arms.

Chest discomfort – A heart attack will typically result in pain in the center of the chest. The discomfort can last for several minutes, or it can go away only to return. Many people say they experience a squeezing feeling, or a sense of fullness or pressure.

Shortness or breath – Sometimes this is accompanied by chest pain, but other times it is not.

In addition, lightheadedness, nausea or suddenly getting a cold sweat can also be signs that a heart attack is occurring.

Take Action
While it is important to know the signs, of course, it is even more important to know what to do if you experience them. Even if you feel confident you are not having a heart attack, do not ignore the symptoms. Call a doctor and get checked out anyway. Be as forthcoming as you can about all of the symptoms you are feeling and act fast. Do not wait more than five minutes before seeking emergency help – again, it could save your life.

You will very likely undergo several types of tests upon arriving at the emergency center. For example, the doctor will perform an electrocardiogram to look for any damage to your heart that may have occurred. He or she will probably take blood as well to look for an abnormal amount of certain kinds of enzymes. 

These and other tests are extremely important, because they not only help determine whether or not a heart attack happened, but can also disclose what degree of damage took place. In addition, they can reveal the level of coronary artery disease you may have.

The best chance of surviving a heart attack is by having a plan in place well before any symptoms take place. Taking a few minutes to educate yourself now could literally be a lifesaver in the future.

If you have any questions about the symptoms of a heart attack, or if you or a loved one ever experiences any sort of medical emergency, get in touch with the experts at Complete Care. Contact us online to learn more.

Dr. Jeffrey Peebles, M.D. has an extensive amount of experience in delivering advanced emergency care. He is board certified with the American Board of Emergency Medicine, and a member of the American College of Emergency Physicians/Texas College of Emergency Physicians. Dr. Peebles is committed to providing timely, affordable and high-quality medical care to the Southlake community.