Heart Attack: Know the Warning Signs...Because Every Minute Counts.

July 07, 2014
An acute myocardial infarction, more commonly known as a heart attack, is a leading cause of death worldwide. Reducing the mortality rate and giving patients the best chance of returning to their normal activities depends on rapid diagnosis and treatment. However, the first step begins with being aware of the warning signs…because every minute counts.
Heart attacks are particularly dangerous because they can strike without warning. An individual may be healthy one minute, but then suddenly develop telltale signs. The most common warning sign is discomfort in the center of the chest which lasts for longer than a minute and spreads to the jaw or left shoulder. However, some patients may not experience chest pain, but will feel very tired and sweaty. 
A heart attack is brought on when a blood clot causes a sudden blockage in a coronary artery. While it is almost impossible to predict when a heart attack will strike, the risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and smoking. According to current scientific evidence, another risk factor is sleep apnea because it leads to a shortage of oxygen in the bloodstream which can result in a clot in progressive narrowing and hardening of the coronary artery.
If you observe any of the warning signs, you should seek immediate medical attention. To determine whether you are suffering from a heart attack, a doctor will perform an electrocardiogram, which takes less than 5 minutes but could save your life
For a heart attack caused by a clogged artery, timely treatment is vital because every minute counts. Even a few minutes can have an impact on the patient’s future. Medical centers with 24-hour primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) services have a ‘golden period’ for treating heart attack patients. Bumrungrad Hospital’s golden period is 60 minutes. When a patient with acute chest pain arrives at the hospital, we can perform cardiac catheterization or an emergency coronary angiogram within 60 minutes, which saves the heart muscle and prevents the heart from becoming enlarged. Patients treated within this golden period have the best chance of recovering fully and returning to their normal life.
While treatment for patients with stable coronary artery disease is less urgent, it is still important to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the warning signs mentioned above.
As always, prevention is better than cure. If you have any of the risk factors, you should have your heart checked. If you smoke, change your lifestyle. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high blood cholesterol, take the medication prescribed by your doctor. However, if symptoms such as feeling tired when walking up a few flights of stairs or chest pain persist, your doctor may consider other treatment options, including coronary artery bypass grafting
If you experience any abnormal symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention and do not leave them untreated. Remember that every minute counts, especially for heart attacks caused by a clogged artery. Effective diagnosis and treatment during the golden period will give you the best chance of recovering your life, health, and happiness.
By Dr. Chaianan Chaiyamanon, Cardiologist, Heart Center (Cardiology), Bumrungrad Hospital
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