Would you know if your friend, family member, or co-worker was having a heart attack? If someone was to ask you what the signs of a heart attack are, do you instantly think of the classic Red Foxx routine on Sanford and Son, where he grabs his chest and yells “I’m coming, Elizabeth!”?
In keeping with the heart health theme for American Heart Month, the Meriden Health Department would like to remind residents of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Knowing and recognizing these signs are the first steps in helping someone in need of care.
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense — the "movie heart attack," where no one doubts what's happening. But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often people affected aren't sure what's wrong and wait too long before getting help. The classic signs are:
- Chest discomfort. 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. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs, such as cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, weakness, unusual fatigue, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
If you notice any of these symptoms, don’t delay help. Minutes count! Call 9-1-1 right away – wait no more than 5 minutes. The longer you wait to call, the more damage could be done to the heart. Stay with the person until care arrives. Pass this information along to friends, family members, and co-workers – you never know when you could save a life.
To learn more about how to help someone who is having a heart attack, consider taking a CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) course. This course will teach you skills to help you provide emergency care to someone in cardiac arrest until professional help arrives and takes over. Classes are offered through the American Red Cross (www.ctredcross.org) and the American Heart Association (www.heart.org). The Meriden Health Department could always come to your place of business, church, or social group for an interactive heart health “brown bag lunch and learn”, which will teach signs of heart attack and stroke and demonstrate how to do CPR – call 203-630-4238 for details.