Call 911 – Before It’s Too Late – Don’t Be Embarrassed to Death!



The good news about heart attacks:

Advances in technology over the past decade or so have dramatically lowered the death rate from acute heart attacks (myocardial infarction, or MI).


The bad news:

Many people never get to the hospital in time to take advantage of these life-saving advances. In fact, about 40% of the 1.1 million heart attacks that occur annually in the U.S. are fatal. That’s about 460,000 deaths from heart attack. Many more patients who survive their heart attacks do so with chronically damaged hearts.


Why timing is everything


When an acute MI occurs, there is a limited amount of time before significant and long-lasting damage is done to the muscle of your heart. If a large area of the heart is injured during the heart attack, full recovery becomes much more difficult. To obtain the greatest benefits of emergency care, anyone who thinks they are having a heart attack should get to the hospital within one hour of the onset of symptoms. The sooner you get to the emergency room, the sooner the appropriate treatment can begin, meaning the lesser the chances of permanent damage.


Sadly, only one in five patients actually gets to the hospital within this time frame. Therefore, many people who survive the MI are unnecessarily left with large portions of the heart scarred by the heart attack. This decreases the heart’s ability to pump blood effectively. Such patients may experience lifelong problems such as shortness of breath and angina (chest discomfort). Patients are also at an increased risk of developing heart failure, in which the heart weakens progressively over time.


Call 911 – not a friend


Calling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they reach you. And they are trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Also, you’re likelier to get treated faster at the hospital if you arrive by ambulance.


If you are having symptoms of a heart attack, do not drive yourself.


What are the warning signs of a heart attack?



  • Sudden chest pain or pressure (also called angina) that worsens. This may be felt as discomfort, heaviness, or pain. May also be felt in the back, jaw, throat, arm or below the breastbone.

  • Feeling as if a belt is being tightened around your chest

  • Pain that spreads from the center of the chest to your arms, shoulders, neck or jaw

  • Sweating

  • Feeling sick to your stomach, nausea, vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Shortness of breath

  • A fullness, indigestion or choking feeling (may feel like “heartburn”)

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats

  • Extreme weakness, anxiety



Use of Aspirin with unstable chest pain: After you call 9-1-1, if you do not have a history of aspirin allergy or bleeding, emergency personnel may advise that you chew one full (325 mg) aspirin slowly. It’s especially effective if taken within 30 minutes of the onset of symptoms.


Why do people delay?


Many people don’t recognize the symptoms of a heart attack (see list). The image we get from TV and movies is that a heart attack is a dramatic, chest-clutching event, yet this is rarely the case. Arm pain may signal a heart attack. Or shortness of breath. Or even an awareness of sweating.


Some people mistake heart attack symptoms for heartburn, take an antacid and wait for it to work. Many people will call 911 for someone else, but not for themselves.


Many people feel they will be embarrassed if they call 911 and they are not in fact having a heart attack. But don’t be embarrassed to death – heart attacks are the leading cause of death in both men and women.

My father just went through this, and luckily family was nearby to get him to the hospital in time. And he was able to chew an asprin, while waiting for the ambulance.

One of our blogging buddies, Lyndon Evans, shares his recent brush a heart condition.




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