Sugar Matters
December 4, 2012

Three things which may make a difference with a heart attack

I recently completed my re-certification exam for Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). All doctors have this training at some time, as do all nurses that work in emergency rooms, intensive care units and other areas of the hospital. At the heart of the re-certification is the reminder that when something catastrophic might be happening, you need to do everything right the first time.{{more}} That may sound quite obvious, but we all know that in many aspects of life, we are able to fudge around some specifics, but still get the job done well. Well, when it comes to a heart attack, one of the ultimate manifestations of heart disease, this is often not the case. In order to have the best outcome, you need to do everything right.

Remember the symptoms: chest pain, heaviness or tightness, arm numbness, weakness, shortness of breath, persistent nausea and abdominal pain or burning, passing out, or other strange symptoms that tell you something is very wrong.

Commit these three rules to memory:

Number 1 – call for help within your home. Wake everybody in the house and let them know what is going on. If you live by yourself, call your neighbour over to the house. DO NOT sit up at night with chest pain by yourself. If things get worse and you pass out, no one will know until possibly too late.

Number 2 – get the ambulance to your house right away. There is some argument about this among many of my patients — some say it is just quicker to have a family member bring him/her to the emergency room. Even worse, some drive themselves to the emergency room. All arguments have their merits, but in this case I REALLY strongly encourage you to call the ambulance. Why? Yes, your nephew may be able to get you to the hospital in 5 minutes from Argyle to Kingstown. But if you have a full cardiac arrest and pass out in the car, will he be able to start CPR and try to revive you? Will he have medications that can help revive you? If the answer is no, then please have your nephew drive behind the ambulance carrying you. Needless to say, driving yourself to the hospital is always a bad idea, unless you have absolutely no other option.

As an aside, for all those who love to race the ambulance or refuse to get out of the way when you hear the siren, think about your mother or father being in that ambulance. With a heart attack every second counts, so those extra 30 seconds wasted because you and your Toyota just won’t move over could cost someone his or her life.


Number 3 – chew one aspirin while you wait for the ambulance. This is a universal recommendation, unless you have an allergy to aspirin (a REAL allergy like swelling, hives or trouble breathing) or have trouble with bleeding ulcers right now. It can be a baby aspirin or a regular aspirin. Either is fine – chew and swallow it. It could save your life, truly.

These are some things you can do that will make the difference between making it through that heart attack or not. Much of it may be out of your hands once it happens, but these three are not. Get it right the first time.

Until next week, stay safe and healthy, Vincies!

Anita Ramsetty, MD

Medical Director Endocrine Care Group

Tel: 843-798-4227