Don’t ignore the signs

  Heart attacks are very common and the next time it may be one of our own friends who may be having one. It is important to know how to recognise the symptoms and take proper steps. If properly looked after, a person under heart attack, has the best chance of survival and can lead a long and active life.

 heart attack

Let us start at the beginning.

 The following symptoms should ring a bell in our minds

 * Discomfort in the centre of the chest.

 * Pain in the left side of the chest

 * Heaviness in the chest or upper abdomen

 * Pain in the chest, which radiates into the left or right arm.

 * Unexplained sweating

 * Burning in the chest

 * Uneasiness in the chest

 * Pain in the jaw

 * Choking sensation

 * Pain or heaviness in both the arms

 What are the associated symptoms?

 These symptoms are present along with pain or discomfort

 * Sweating

 * Breathlessness

 * Palpitations or awareness of heart beating.

 One must remember that these associated symptoms are not always present

 The background history of the person is also important; it is much more likely to be a cardiac symptom if the person either has been having high blood pressure, or a history of diabetes mellitus or if he is a smoker.

 The best thing to do is to act quick, not take any chances and take the person to a place where there is a facility to take an ECG and also see a cardiologist. Remember that only taking an ECG is not enough.

 There have been many cases where the ECG reports are normal and the person goes back home, only to develop an attack. It is the background check plus the symptoms plus an ECG which should be evaluated to help in the diagnosis.

 Why do we need to get treated early?

 The person has the best chance if he is given clot dissolving drugs and if necessary angioplasty and stent treatment. The earlier the treatment, the lesser the heart muscle damage.

 Dr Sunil Kapoor is a senior consultant cardiologist, CARE Hospitals