Los Alamos Medical Center (LAMC) is pursuing certification as an accredited Chest Pain Center through the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC). Early Heart Attack Care™ (EHAC) education is a public awareness campaign created by the Dr. Raymond Bahr, founder of the SCPC. The primary goal of EHAC® is to promote awareness that heart attacks have “beginnings” that can occur weeks before the actual attack. EHAC focuses on intervention during these beginnings to help prevent acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cardiac arrest.
Dr. Miguel Dozier discusses heart issues. Photo by Chris Clark/ladailypost.com
As part of their public education process LAMC partnered with the Betty Ehart Senior Center and Emergent Medical Associates, the management firm providing the physicians to the LAMC emergency department. EMA critical care physician Miguel Dozier, MD spoke on recognizing and taking action on the signs and symptoms of an early heart attack.
Dozier stressed that “the signs of an impending heart attack may 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.”
The second goal of EHAC is to teach the public that individuals with heart attack symptoms be evaluated and treated in an emergency department (ED) or chest pain center (CPC).
Experts there are trained in the rapid evaluation of patients, bringing together ED physicians, nurses, cardiologists, and technicians who work as a team to establish a comprehensive management plan for patients with chest pain.
As part of the lunchtime presentation Lori Coffelt, RN and Director of the LAMC Emergency Department, presented three automated external defibrillators (AED’s) to the senior center, for use in the Los Alamos and White Rock facilities.
An AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia in a patient, and is able to treat them through the application of electrical therapy which stops the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm. With simple audio and visual commands, AEDs are simple to use for the layperson.
Four Important Early Heart Attack Symptoms
Not every heart attack displays the same symptoms as those we may see on the many medical TV shows we are exposed to daily. In fact, many people ignore the early signs of a heart attack, simply dismissing the more subtle symptoms because they expect the drama associated with a Hollywood episode.
Unfortunately, when these early signs are ignored, we miss a “window of opportunity” to prevent the attack before any heart damage can occur. The following signs and symptoms are ones to be aware of in yourself or in your family members:
Shortness of Breath without Exertion
Although most of us experience shortness of breath when we are exercising or expending energy outside of what we do normally, difficulty breathing when performing normal activities is an early sign that should be investigated.
The sensation of heartburn or a burning in the chest can be mapped to spicy food and quickly discarded. This sensation can also be an early sign of a heart attack, especially if the condition becomes chronic. If you find yourself taking over-the-counter antacids on a regular basis, the underlying cause of your trouble needs to be discussed with your doctor.
Discomfort or Pain
Although we think of heart pain as pain occurring in the area of the heart, for some individuals this is not the case. People who have suffered a heart attack have described their early symptoms everywhere from crushing to squeezing to pressure occurring in the chest and even other areas of the body. Shoulders, neck, and jaw are areas reportedly affected prior to a heart attack. Always seek immediate attention if you are experiencing this type of pain, even if the symptoms disappear or are only intermittent.
A Feeling of Impending Doom
Some patients describe a feeling of anxiety and fear prior to the occurrence of a heart attack. Although not usually thought of as an early symptom, and certainly attributable to other matters, this “feeling” can still be an early indicator, especially when combined with any of the other symptoms listed above.
Should you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1.