Imagine that you are awakened at 2 a.m. with a strange discomfort in your chest – it’s behind your breastbone or maybe in one of your arms, or both. Possibly in your jaw, neck, back or upper abdomen. And it could be that you’re having cold sweats, nausea, shortness of breath, light-headedness.
The discomfort is new, a little scary, and lasts more than a few minutes. It may come and go. If you are in a denial mode, you would like to think and hope that the problem is simply indigestion, a little gas.
What could make all the difference in the world to you would be to consider the possibility that this is an impending heart attack. There could be a clot forming in your coronary artery that is closing, or has already closed that could be producing any combination of these symptoms and threatening to cause serious heart muscle damage and/or a chaotic cardiac arrhythmia, either of which can be fatal.
If this scenario should ever happen to you, at any time of day or night, don’t waste precious time thinking about what you might have eaten to cause these problems. It has become clear in the world of cardiology that the shorter the time from the onset of a heart attack to the time the blocked artery is opened will be the deciding factor in saving a life and limiting heart muscle injury.
THREE LIFESAVING STEPS
- Promptly call 911.
- After you call 911, chew and swallow one 325 mg adult aspirin to help dissolve any clots that might be forming in your coronary arteries. Chewing an adult aspirin is more effective then swallowing an aspirin. Chewed aspirin hits your bloodstream faster, and starts working in 4 – 5 minutes.
- Do not drive yourself to the hospital. Don’t even think about driving yourself or having an anxious mate drive you to the hospital.
Most of the emergency rooms in the U.S. have the means to dissolve these clots with intravenous medications (fibrinolysis). But if you’re fortunate you’ll be taken to a hospital that has a cardiac catherization laboratory where a flexible tube will be passed from your groin to the blocked artery. As the tube is snaked into the artery it is inflated and crushes the deposits(the clots) and once again, circulation is restored. Often, the cardiologist will insert a stent to keep the artery open. This process is known as percutaneous coronary intervention(PCI) or balloon angioplasty.
What is clearly documented in the current cardiology literature is the importance of the shortest possible time between onset of symptoms and your arrival into an ER. The sooner you can recognize you might be in trouble, the better your chances of a successful recovery.
Everyone who loves you will be glad you did.