Expert Health Articles

If You Think You Are Having A Heart Attack – Call 9-1-1

Mindy LauseMindy Lause, RN

Emergency Department

Imagine in the middle of the night you are jolted awake by an unfamiliar queasy feeling. A throbbing pressure begins to fill your chest, and your arm begins to tingle with a sensation similar to pins and needles. Notably, these symptoms may be more ambiguous if you are a woman, elderly or diabetic. However, you are able to sense that something just isn’t right. Every passing minute from the onset of these symptoms becomes critical. Immediately call 9-1-1. Do not attempt to drive yourself to the emergency room of your nearest hospital.

Attempting to drive yourself or others delays treatment. “Time is muscle.” This phrase means that the longer you wait, the more irreversible damage could occur toward your heart.

Generally, a heart attack is a blood clot that forms in the coronary artery or one of its branches. This clot blocks blood flow, resulting in Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) symptoms. These include, but are not limited to: chest pressure, chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, weakness, arm pain and jaw pain. With the onset of these symptoms, the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen and blood flow. The tissue can die within minutes, unless the blocked artery can be opened through percutaneous cardiac intervention (placement of a cardiac balloon or stent) or medications that dissolve the clot.

In an intense moment of vulnerability, dialing 9-1-1 should be thought of as an empowering decision to obtain personal control over your own health. Dialing 9-1-1 connects you to an operator who will instruct you on what to do as they dispatch emergency medical services (EMS). EMS will quickly obtain an electrocardiogram (ECG), initiate an intravenous line (IV) and provide emotional support. The EMTs will arrive with a squad equipped with lifesaving equipment and medications. These can reverse the abnormal and potentially lethal heart rhythms that sometimes accompany heart attacks. The EMTs also have the authority to activate the catheterization team and alert medical staff of your imminent arrival. This is done via ECG en route, ultimately expediting care.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Ohio and in the U.S. The only way we can get better at combating this disease is to aim for prevention or achieve timely intervention. Pulling the alarm when it comes to the onset of ACS symptoms is never a bad idea. Time is muscle- your muscle. Reduced treatment time is vital to surviving a heart attack and mitigating the harmful effects. When in doubt, please do not hesitate to dial 9-1-1. Every minute counts!