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How to Survive a Heart Attack
last updated:
Mon, 10/25/2010 4:01 PM

Fast action is the best weapon against heart attack! Artery opening treatments can stop a heart attack in its tracks. They can prevent or limit heart damage–but they need to be able to be performed as soon as possible after the symptoms begin.

  • Chewing and swallowing a 325 mg aspirin can reduce damage to the heart if you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Call 911 and get the person to the hospital as soon as possible.

Know the Early Symptoms of Heart Attacks

Early warning signs are present in nearly 50% of all heart attacks. Symptoms are usually present 24 hours before the attack but can occur 2-3 weeks beforehand. Symptoms are typically intermittent lasting from a few minutes to a few hours, followed by a pain-free period before the acute attack.

Non-specific signs include:

  • Weakness/fatigue
  • Clammy/sweating
  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Dizziness/nervousness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Neck/back/jaw pain
  • Feeling of doom

Specific signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Chest pressure
  • Chest ache
  • Chest burning
  • Chest fullness

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense—like 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.

Immediately call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can be sent for you. 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, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives—maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.

Calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive—up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Patients with chest pain who arrive by ambulance usually receive faster treatment at the hospital, too. It is best to call EMS for rapid transport to the emergency room.

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Jennifer Hutzel is a Registered Nurse at the Methodist North Chest Pain Center. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Call 888.777.5959 for more information.

Signs of a Sleep Disorder
last updated:
Wed, 4/28/2010 1:46 PM

We know that people have 3 basic needs to survive: water, food, and sleep. Sleep is an active state that renews our mental and physical health each day and, unfortunately, most of us fail to get quality sleep. Sleep disorders lead to a poor quality of life and reduced personal health.

Did you know that untreated sleep disorders can lead to high blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels, diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and mood problems? It’s not just your health. Sleep disorders also endanger others by contributing to traffic and industrial accidents. Discussions have partly linked the Challenger disaster, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill to people suffering from a severe lack of sleep! 

Sleep disorders include problems falling asleep and/or staying asleep, interrupted sleep, and daytime sleepiness. Many times, we don’t discuss our sleeping problems with our physicians because of the short time spent with them and the need to discuss the current problem, such as a sinus infection, shortness of breath, symptoms of the flu, or other issues we are having. So, symptoms and signs that could be related to a sleep disorder may go unreported.

The most devastating sleep disorder that a person can have is the one that goes unreported, undiagnosed, and untreated, especially in a city where we have so many wonderful Sleep Disorders Centers and sleep medicine specialists. 

So, how do you know if you may have a sleep disorder? Well, some of the common signs and symptoms to talk with your doctor about are:

  • Snoring
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Morning headaches
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure and/or diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Legs jerking and/or kicking while you sleep
  • Changes in your mood such as being depressed; angry or irritated frequently
  • Bedwetting
  • Falling asleep at work; in a movie; at a stop sign or light; while talking to someone

Sometimes, you may not be aware of the things that you are doing in your sleep.  So, have a bed partner, parent, friend, family member, or child observe you and describe what you do in your sleep. 

On June 15th Dr. Robert Aguillard will present “When Snoring Becomes a Problem for You or a Family Member,” the second in a FREE series of sleep seminars sponsored by the Methodist Healthcare Sleep Disorders Center.

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Kristi Lester is the manager at the Methodist Healthcare Sleep Disorders Center. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Please call the Sleep Disorders Center for more information at 901.683.0044.

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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000

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