Signs of a Heart Attack - The Nebraska Medical Center

Uploaded by NebraskaMedCenter on 31.01.2012

It’s the chest discomfort that has an unusual, uncomfortable characteristic, it is generally
fairly severe. It comes on in a crescendo manner it may radiate to the jaw, teeth and
to the shoulder but generally people can’t put their finger right on it. It is more of
a widespread discomfort.
It is often accompanied by shortness of breath, sweating and an overall feeling of doom on
the part of the patient. The patient clearly does not feel good at all. They generally
know they’re in trouble.
If they already have nitroglycerin, we generally recommend they take the nitroglycerin. If
they have a regular aspirin available, we ask them to take it, chew it in fact if they
can and wash it down with a glass of water. If they are really uncomfortable they probably
need to have someone drive them to the emergency room.
Family history has a huge role. Primarily in terms of which risk factors someone has
and how the person responds to those risk factors.
Hypertension, for instance, tends to run in families. The severity of it not necessarily
but there is a tendency. The second risk factor is high cholesterol, in which particular type
of high cholesterol. There is an abnormal lipid profile that is characterized by a high
LDL or bad cholesterol and then there is a profile that is characterized by low good
cholesterol. Both of those are risk factors for the occurrence of coronary artery disease,
Atherosclerosise, the development of vascular disease and so forth, even stroke.
The American Heart Association has been able to clearly document there is an improvement
in survival and an improvement in treatment. We have set goals in terms of the speed of
treatment and we have refined them to a shorter and shorter time period as time goes on. We
have a program here that is directed by one of my partners in the catheterization laboratory
in concert with the emergency department. We have a specific series of steps that occur
very promptly when somebody shows up with clearly a heart attack. That ultimately culminates
with the patient going to the catheterization laboratory, hopefully, within an hour to 90
minutes and having that artery opened.
Somewhere around 30 percent of myocardial infarctions present as sudden death. In the
vicinity of the center, let’s say someone here in Omaha, who has a heart attack; there
are a lot of places with emergency care for that. If they survive to the emergency facility
the mortality rate is actually quite small. It is that initial group that has the cardiac
arrest where the numbers are not good at all.
In people with any risk in their family, they ought to at least get a blood test, check
their blood pressure and perhaps do that on a yearly basis or maybe every other year if
it’s lower risk. Certainly diabetics and younger people already diagnosed with hypertension,
they should definitely be under the care of a physician.