Dialing 911 isn't a call most people want to make, but it can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency. Quick treatment can help limit the damage being done to the heart and increase the chance of a full recovery. But, calling 911 instead of driving yourself or a loved one to a nearby emergency department could be the difference between life and death.
Lack of education about symptoms can act as a barrier to calling and getting the quick care a patient needs. Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
If you experience these symptoms call 911 immediately and wait for paramedics to arrive. If you have a history of heart disease, watch for the symptoms you've experienced in the past and be ready to act. Some individuals have nitroglycerin tablets to take, but if you do not feel better soon, call for help.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to reduce our risk of developing heart disease. A good start is learning about the risk factors for the disease and understanding which ones we can modify, such as smoking, poor diet, and inactivity. The main risk factors associated with heart disease include:
- Family history
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Adopting a healthy diet and exercise routine can help minimize some of your risk factors for heart disease. Studies support that leading a sedentary lifestyle increases our risk of a variety of life-threatening health conditions, as well as increases the incidence of early onset of these diseases, including heart disease. This proves the significant importance of exercise. Try to fit exercise into your routine every day. The benefits of maintaining a healthy balanced diet are astounding, especially in the arena of reducing the risk of heart disease. Make an effort to fit a mix of vegetables, fruit and lean protein into your meals each day. We aren't saying you can't 'cheat' and have your favorite comfort foods every once in a while, but the key word here is MODERATION.
Dr. Suresh Koneswaran is a cardiologist at Cone Health Medical Group HeartCare at Annie Penn and Eden. Dr. Koneswaran received his medical degree at Kasturba Medical College-Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India in 2001. He completed his residency in internal medicine at the University of Minnesota in 2006 and completed his fellowship in cardiology at the University of Toledo in 2009.