Holiday Heart

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It’s Holiday time and as the saying goes….”Eat, Drink and Be Merry!”  However, emergency room physicians and the Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Inc. (WVAC) are advocating for people to be vigilant about recognizing signs and symptoms of heart attack and taking action.

“I think with people letting their guard down and being a bit less healthy – eating and drinking a bit more – there is a need for increased awareness of signs of heart attacks,” says Brian McGovern, an emergency room physician at Norwalk Hospital and a Wilton resident.

The signs and symptoms of a heat attack may include some of the following symptoms:

  • Chest discomfort or pain: This discomfort or pain can feel like a tight ache, pressure, fullness or squeezing in the center of your chest lasting more than a few minutes. This discomfort may come and go.
  • Upper body pain:  Pain or discomfort may spread beyond your chest to your shoulders, arms, back, neck, teeth or jaw. You may have upper body pain with no chest discomfort.
  • Stomach pain:  Pain may extend downward into your abdominal area and may feel like heartburn.
  • Shortness of breath:  You may pant for breath or try to take in deep breaths. This often occurs before you develop chest discomfort or you may not experience any chest discomfort.
  • Anxiety:  You may feel a sense of doom or feel as if you’re having a panic attack for no apparent reason.
  • Lightheadedness:  In addition to chest pressure, you may feel dizzy or feel like you might pass out.
  • Sweating:  You may suddenly break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
  • Nausea and vomiting:  You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.

Most heart attacks begin with subtle symptoms such as discomfort rather than pain. The chest discomfort may come and go. Don’t be tempted to downplay your symptoms or brush them off as indigestion or anxiety.  Many people avoid calling 911 because they don’t want to “cause a scene” or feel “embarrassed” if it turns out to be nothing serious.  Heart attack survivors will tell you, “its better to be embarrassed than dead.”

Don’t “tough out” heart attack symptoms for more than five minutes and don’t try to self diagnose with the Internet.  Every minute lost is heart muscle lost.  In some cases, a heart attack may cause cardiac arrest and death.  Call 911 or other emergency medical services for help.

Heart attack symptoms vary widely. For instance, you may have only minor chest discomfort while someone else has excruciating pain. Some people may have a history of heart disease in their family while others will have none at all. In addition, the American Heart Association specifically points out that heart attack symptoms in women can differ from the more “classic” symptoms experienced by men.  For example, women may experience only one or some of the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Upper back pressure
  • Extreme fatigue

There is no “stereotypical” individual (e.g.: age, gender, weight, lifestyle) who can have a heart attack, however, one thing applies to everyone: If you suspect you’re having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately.

The Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps wishes everyone a happy, healthy and safe Holiday Season!  Please take care of yourself and your loved ones and remember, we’ll be there if you need us.

For more information on heart attack, visit: The American Heart Association and The Mayo Clinic

The Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation.