Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Your Heart Attack

Hopefully, you’ll never suffer a heart attack (at least not until you’re good and ready, say with an age in the triple digits). But if your heart does run into unexpected trouble, it’s essential that you recognize the symptoms and get help as quickly as possible.

An average heart attack may start modestly. Perhaps you’ve spent the day at the gym, and several hours later, you notice an unexpected tightness in your chest. Or you’re driving home from an absolutely ordinary day at work, but feeling a nagging, uncomfortable shortness of breath. Whatever the problem, it’s difficult to ignore—in fact, you feel thoroughly awful. You might also have aches, extreme fatigue, intermittent nausea, and sweating. But no matter what specific symptoms you experience, the one overriding characteristic of a heart attack is profound discomfort, not the clear-cut agony of a Hollywood heart attack.

During a heart attack, you may feel pain in a seemingly unrelated place, such as your back, neck, jaw, or arm (on either side). This phenomenon, called referred pain, happens when sensory messages from your heart get scrambled across nearby nerves, which are connected to a completely different body part. As a result, your brain gets the wrong message. (Referred pain is also responsible for the ache that appears to originate from a limb that’s been amputated, and the “brain-freeze” feeling of drinking a 1-liter slush drink in 60 seconds.)

In the midst of a heart attack, people often make two mistakes:

• They try to rest it off. Although the discomfort of a heart attack doesn’t go away, many people try to explain it as the fallout from a sudden flu, an overly enthusiastic workout, or a basket of bad clams. Eventually, it becomes obvious that these explanations don’t fit—but not before valuable time has ticked away.

• They go to the hospital without an ambulance. Most people are far too embarrassed to call 911 if they’re still conscious and able to move. Instead, they get a family member to drive them to the hospital. Or they call a taxi. Or they walk on their own. All the while, oxygen deprivation is slowly destroying their heart.

If you want to survive a heart attack, the right response is clear: Don’t worry about being alarmist. Don’t hope that the problem clears up with a bit of rest or wishful thinking. Don’t talk yourself into the average 110-minute waiting period. Instead, risk embarrassment and call an ambulance. As cardiologists say, time is muscle. The more minutes you waste, the more heart tissue you sacrifice—forever.

As you wait for the ambulance, it’s a good idea to chew an aspirin tablet, which can thin your blood and reduce the chance of severe heart damage. (You need to chew the aspirin to allow it to enter your blood quickly. Otherwise, you won’t see much action for hours.) However, avoid the aspirinchewing trick if you suspect another problem (like internal bleeding), in which case a blood-thinning drug may do more harm than good.

When you get to the hospital, modern medicine has several nearly miraculous treatments that can save your life. Clot-busting drugs can dissolve blockages, and an emergency surgery technique, called angioplasty, can dislodge obstructions and open arteries using a tiny, inflatable balloon.

Source of Information : Oreilly - Your Body Missing Manual

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