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If a red flashing sign suddenly appeared, proclaiming, “You’re having a heart attack,” you’d know just what to do. You’d call 911 and take an ambulance straight to the emergency department.
But signs of heart attack — when blood flow is blocked to a section of the heart — are usually subtle, and many people delay seeking help. A new study found that patients with less severe symptoms took an average of two and a half hours to get to the hospital.
Those extra minutes are crucial. Heart attack treatment is most effective if it begins within two hours of the onset of symptoms. The first two hours are the best time to reverse the process by reinstating blood flow — while damage is reversible. Immediate care can prevent death and lessen damage to the muscle of the heart that is caused by lack of adequate flow. The sooner you get to a hospital, the more doctors can do to salvage your heart.
Learn the Signs and Save Precious Time
Many of us don’t know the warning signs of heart trouble or what to do when we spot them. In a recent survey, only 56 percent of women could name the most common heart-attack symptoms. Only about half said they’d go to the hospital if they thought they were having one.
Learn these signs of a heart attack:
The pain usually lasts longer than 20 minutes. Symptoms may also go away and then come back. Keep in mind that women may be more likely than men to have different symptoms, such as shortness of breath or fatigue, than chest pain.
Call 911 even if you aren’t sure it’s a heart attack. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. Paramedics can begin treatment at your home or en route. Patients in ambulances may also get faster care when they reach the emergency department.
For More Information
For more information about heart and vascular care at Sharp or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego cardiologist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about heart and vascular care, visit Cardiovascular Diseases in Adult Health or read the Heart and Cardiovascular News archive.