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To Your Health: Learn early signs, symptoms of heart attack

A serious symptom: Uncomfortable pressure squeezing fullness or pacenter your chest is sign heart attack. The discomfort could last more

A serious symptom: Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest is a sign of a heart attack. The discomfort could last more than a few minutes, or go away and return. | FILE PHOTO

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Updated: March 13, 2014 6:13AM



Did you know that heart attacks have beginnings?

These “beginnings” occur in most heart attack patients, and, most important, they can be treated before the heart is damaged if recognized in time.

The facts about heart disease are alarming.

Heart disease causes about 1 in 4 deaths in the United States.

About 50 percent of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside the hospital. This suggests that many people don’t act on early warning signs.

In a recent survey, just 27 percent of respondents were aware of the major heart attack symptoms and know to call 911.

In fact, heart attacks need not kill or destroy heart muscle if you listen when your body is trying to tell you something.

Early Heart Attack Care (EHAC) is a public awareness campaign sponsored by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care intended to educate the public about the signs of an impending heart attack and that these signs and symptoms can occur days or weeks before the actual event. These early symptoms need to be recognized and treated early to avoid the damage caused by a full-blown heart attack.

Unlike most programs that promote better understanding of the signs and symptoms of heart attack, the EHAC program encourages early recognition when those symptoms may be mild. In about half of those cases, a heart attack may be prevented with early treatment before the heart incurs any damage.

A key element of the EHAC program is an online course that anyone can take to learn about the early warning signs of heart attack and the benefits of early treatment and activating emergency medical services.

Visit www.deputyheartattack.org to take the free online EHAC course. You will learn that it will be valuable to your heart health, as well as potentially lifesaving for those around you who may be experiencing early heart attack symptoms.

Another goal of EHAC is to encourage individuals with heart attack symptoms to be evaluated and treated in an emergency department or an accredited Chest Pain Center, such as Franciscan St. James Health.

As an accredited Chest Pain Center, Franciscan St. James has demonstrated a higher level of expertise in dealing with patients who arrive with symptoms of a heart attack.

To residents of the south and southwest suburbs, this means that processes are in place that meet strict criteria aimed at:

Reducing the time from onset of symptoms to diagnosis and treatment.

Treating patients more quickly during the critical window of time when the integrity of the heart muscle can be preserved.

Monitoring patients when it is not certain that they are having a heart attack to ensure that they are not sent home too quickly or needlessly admitted to the hospital.

People tend to wait when they think they might be having a heart attack, and that’s a mistake. The average patient arrives in the emergency department more than two hours after the onset of symptoms. In fact, 85 percent of heart damage occurs within the first two hours of a heart attack.

Make the most of National Heart Month. Take the EHAC online course today. Visit www.deputyheartattack.org.

Patty Peele is a Certified Chest Pain Coordinator and director of the Franciscan St. James Health Heart and Vascular Institute. Franciscan St. James is a member of the Southland Health Alliance.



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