"I woke up with a feeling of what I thought was indigestion."
Pat Dolan's feeling of indigestion quickly worsened to the point where she knew she needed to get to an emergency room immediately.
"The indigestion feeling continued, and then I broke out in a cold sweat," explains Dolan. "Soon after, my left arm began to numb, starting with my hand; that's when I told my daughter to take me directly to Sharp Chula Vista's ER."
At 78 years old, Dolan had suffered from acute coronary syndrome, specifically ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the most severe kind of heart attack.
"Most heart attacks can progress slowly or may start abruptly. And quite often people don’t realize what is happening at first," explains Dr. Steven J. Rough, an interventional cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. "I was the interventional cardiologist on call when Ms. Dolan came in and was part of her care team. She absolutely did the right thing in seeking medical attention quickly."
According to the American Heart Association, most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. Other signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Uncomfortable pressure or squeezing in the chest
- A feeling of fullness
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or light-headedness
"A heart attack occurs when one or more of the three arteries that run over the surface of the heart become blocked," says Dr. Rough. "This blockage can occur for many different reasons — including a clot — and prevents blood from reaching the heart muscle, resulting in a heart attack."
Protecting yourself from cardiovascular disease and heart attack is possible. The American Heart Association suggests the following tips for prevention:
- Get active by adding physical activity to your daily routine
- Control your cholesterol
- Manage your blood pressure
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Reduce blood sugar level
- Maintain a heart-healthy diet
- Don't smoke
"I'm so grateful I listened to my body and got help quickly," says Dolan. "Now on the road to recovery, I'm continuing my habit of following a heart-healthy diet and enjoying activities with family, my grandchildren and friends."
If you or a loved one experience signs of a heart attack, it's important to act quickly and call 911 immediately. Here's what you should do when someone is having a heart attack.
For the news media: To talk with Pat Dolan or Dr. Rough about heart attack signs and symptoms for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.