February is Heart Month: Take any type of chest pain seriously

Pictured above is one of the Emergency Rooms at Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon. February is National Heart Month. Anyone that is experiencing any type of chest discomfort, weakness or shortness of breath should seek medical assistance immediately. Because time is muscle, the quicker the heart attack can be stopped the less muscle will be lost, and the better one’s chances for recovery. Submitted photo.

by Diane Butikofer, RN, ER Supervisor at Veterans Memorial Hospital

Individuals who experience any type of chest pain need to take that pain very seriously and seek medical assistance. There is always the possibility that pain may be caused by a heart attack or some other form of heart disease and must not be ignored. Immediate medical attention is the only way to stop or decrease the damage to the heart.
The common signs and symptoms of a heart attack include the following:
1. Any type of chest pain. It may be a crushing pain, a feeling of heaviness such as an elephant standing on one’s chest, or even a squeezing of the chest.
2. Pain that radiates down the arm, or other areas of the body such as the neck, jaw or shoulders.
3. Weakness or shortness of breath, nausea, light headedness and/or possible sweating.
A heart attack is permanent damage to a part of the heart muscle. This damage is caused by a lack of blood supply and oxygen to that part of the muscle usually due to a clot or build-up of plaque that blocks an artery.
Anyone experiencing signs of a heart attack should call 9-1-1 immediately. Time is muscle. The longer one waits to seek medical attention, the more heart muscle is likely to be damaged due to the heart attack.
Ambulance personnel will take victims to the hospital where nurses and physicians trained in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) can treat the heart attack and possibly stop further damage to the heart muscle. In addition, all ambulance services in this area are equipped with automatic defibrillators in the case a heart attack would completely stop the heart from beating. Again, time is muscle. The less muscle lost, the better recovery chance.
Veterans Memorial Hospital staff in Waukon commonly gives “clot-busting drugs,” such as TNKase, to stop decrease the damage from the heart attack. These types of drugs actually attack the clot that is cutting off the blood flow in the coronary artery. Once the clot is broken down, blood flow can return to the heart muscle and this decreases damage.
After a heart attack, it takes eight to 12 weeks for new blood vessels to form and a scar to develop in the affected area. During this healing process, it is normal to feel weak, but strength should gradually return.
Just because a person has had one heart attack, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will definitely have another, but it does mean that they have some heart disease. To decrease the risk of having a second heart attack, one should seriously consider making lifestyle changes including an increase in exercise, decrease in stress and eating a heart-healthy diet.
Those who are experiencing any kind of chest discomfort, weakness or shortness of breath need to seek medical assistance immediately. For more information, call Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon at 563-568-3411.