Physicians say that time is muscle during a heart attack. That???s because during a heart attack, the heart???s muscle begins to die, and a patient???s outcome is largely determined by how much muscle is lost.
A heart attack occurs when one of the arteries to the heart becomes blocked, stopping the flow of oxygen to the heart muscle. The key to surviving a heart attack is getting help quickly. Without oxygen, heart cells begin dying immediately. And, with each passing minute, you lose more and more heart muscle???permanently.
That???s why it is critical to reopen that artery as fast as possible. Clot-busing medications and other treatments such as angioplasty work quickly, but to be most effective, they should be started within an hour after symptoms appear.
That doesn't mean you have an hour to get to the hospital ??? you need to go as soon as you think there may be a problem. The hospital will want to do tests to confirm you're having a heart attack and that can take time also. The difference between waiting and seeking treatment could be life and death.
Because time matters, Memorial Health System???s cardiac team is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide angioplasty and emergency stenting to heart attack patients within a 90 minute window of opportunity. Statistics show that the risk of dying from the heart attack is cut by 40% if arteries can be opened within 90 minutes of hospital arrival. This window of lifesaving opportunity is called ???door to balloon time???, measuring minutes from entry into the emergency room to when a balloon catheter is inflated in a blocked artery to open it up for blood flow in order to stop the heart attack.
According to the American Heart Association, symptoms of a heart attack may begin slowly. Signs may include:
- Pressure or pain in the center of the chest.
- Pain in the arms, neck, back or jaw.
- Shortness of breath.
- Nausea or light-headedness.
If you have any of these symptoms, even if you think it's only a bad case of heartburn, it???s always best to seek treatment ??? fast action can save lives.