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Early Heart Attack Care

Heart Attack is the number one killer of the adult population in the United States, accounting for about 600,000 deaths in 2010
- National Vital Statistics Report, May 8, 2013

Did you know heart attacks have beginnings, and in many cases there are steps that can be taken to prevent a major heart attack from occurring? In more than 50% of heart attack cases, patients experience early tell-tale symptoms. When these symptoms arise, action can be taken to halt the attack and prevent damage to the heart. These warning symptoms include mild chest pain or discomfort or intermittent pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, back pain, jaw pain, pain in one or both arms unrelated to injury, unusual anxiety or extreme out of proportion fatigue.


This early stage of a heart attack is known as the prodromal stage. Symptoms can occur hours or weeks before the actual heart attack. In today's lifestyle, it is hard to stop and listen to what our bodies are telling us. But if we did, it is possible to decrease the heart attack death of more than 310,000 people. Since these mild symptoms are easily ignored or easy to shrug-off as indigestion or something other than heart disease, they do not receive the attention they deserve. Denial and procrastination are usual cause for delay.

A heart attack is also known as an acute myocardial infarct or AMI. AMIs occur when blood flow in one of the three arteries of the heart becomes blocked or significantly reduced. If the flow of blood is not restored quickly enough, the blocked-off section of heart muscle becomes damaged from lack of oxygen and begins to die. This blockage may be caused by a blood clot stuck in an artery or a thickening inside the artery wall that restricts the flow of blood enough to cause pain and damage.

Most of the damage is done in the first two hours of a heart attack. As time progresses, so does the damage to the heart muscle. This damage is irreversible and the heart may become weakened and unable to pump blood adequately through the body.

So, if you believe that you are having a heart attack, it is of utmost importance that you not hesitate to call 911. Do not drive yourself to the hospital! The paramedics and emergency medical technicians can quickly identify a heart attack and transport you quickly to the hospital as they begin treatment. Once at the hospital, an emergency percutaneous coronary intervention can be performed to open the blocked artery or arteries. The team at Chester County Hospital work hard to triage patients quickly through the system to coronary intervention. They perform this process better than the national average. This speed saves time, heart muscle, and lives.

Whether it is you or a friend or family member experiencing these subtle symptoms, remember now is the time to act! If you are thinking about whether or not to call 911 - CALL 911. It could make the difference between life and death.

Last Updated: 2/6/2014