Here are the facts: cardiovascular disease is world’s leading cause of death and disability. It kills 17.7 million people a year.
Someone in the U.S has a heart attack every 34 seconds.
Every 60 seconds, someone dies of a heart attack.
Pretty scary stuff! You probably already know someone who’s had a heart attack. Or you might have had one yourself.
The good news is that most emergency services endeavor to reach heart attack victims and bring them to the hospital within an hour or less. This has reduced the death toll from coronary artery disease by 38 percent over the past decade.
However, that still leaves a large percentage of people who don’t make it.
What most people don’t realize is how crucial those first few minutes are after a heart attack strikes. They can make all the difference between life and death.
It’s as easy as popping an aspirin.
Here are your essential survival tips for getting through a heart attack until help arrives.
Know the symptoms
Heart attacks occur in people who have a buildup of plaque (fat and cholesterol) in their arteries. If a piece of that plaque breaks off, it forms a clot that can block the flow of blood to the heart.
When this happens, you’ll feel a sharp chest pain. You may also feel pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, the shoulders, the neck or the stomach. Pain in the stomach is often mistaken for indigestion, which is why you have to check yourself for the other symptoms: shortness of breath, sweating, nausea and vomiting.
Just to complicate things, some studies show that up to a third off heart attack patients have no chest pain – particularly if they’re older, female or diabetic. In fact, older victims seem to have to fewer symptoms altogether. Instead, they’re more likely to be confused, have labored breathing, or pass out. This is due to the lack of blood flow throughout the body, particularly to the brain.
Bottom line? Be aware of what might be a heart attack. Only you will know when you’re not feeling yourself. Don’t ignore it!
Call For Help
This may sound obvious, but some people hesitate. Just ask yourself: if your mother or brother were having these symptoms, would you tell them to get help?
The hour after a heart attack is absolutely crucial. You must get to a hospital within this short time frame in order to prevent damage to your heart. Those who delay seeking help are ultimately the ones who end up with heart failure.
Also – don’t drive yourself to the hospital, and don’t get someone else to drive you, either. Ambulances have defibrillators for a reason! If your heart stops, paramedics will be on hand to help. They’ll also have medications to help reduce clots.
Take An Aspirin – Immediately
Yes, really! That little white pill could save your life while you’re waiting for emergency services to arrive.
The trick is that you’re to chew it first – THEN swallow it. This helps the aspirin to work faster.
Any regular, uncoated 325-milligram aspirin will do. Why?
Well, aspirin helps to thin the blood, which can prevent blood from clotting. No, it might not stop a heart attack completely. But yes, it can help to limit the damage caused.
You see, our blood is comprised of platelets: tiny disc-shaped cells that cling together to form a clot. Thee clots are useful in the event of an injury: they help prevent too much blood being lost.
In the case of a heart attack, however, these platelets rush to block up the rupture caused by the plaque that has broken off the wall of a blood vessel. The clot can end up blocking the whole vein, depriving the heart of the oxygen-rich blood it needs. That’s when a portion of the heart muscle can die – and you have a heart attack.
What aspirin does is make platelets less ‘sticky’. This means they’re less likely to clump together and form a clot. But beware – more is NOT better. Too much aspirin can upset your stomach, or even cause uncontrollable bleeding.
Bottom line? If your doctor has already told you that you’re at risk of cardiovascular disease, ask about taking a small dose of aspirin (baby aspirin) every day.
While you’re at it – how about improving your diet? Getting some more exercise? Cutting out trans fats and fried foods? There’s no time like the present. And prevention is the best cure!
And don’t ignore any strange pains in your chest, arms or lower jaw. When it comes to heart attacks, it’s ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry!