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Subtle Symptoms May Be Biggest Clues to Heart Attack

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Posted: 9/7/2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A gripping chest pain is most often associated with the onset of a heart attack, however, waiting for the appearance of this warning sign may mean that you’ve already overlooked some other, more subtle symptoms, and in the process lost valuable time seeking treatment.

While chest pains can be a clear sign of a heart disorder or other major health problem requiring immediate medical attention, other symptoms often are overlooked, seriously prolonging treatment time and increasing damage to the heart, according to Dr. Charles A. Bush, a cardiologist and medical director of the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital at The Ohio State University.

“People have the best chance of surviving a heart attack and minimizing the risk of damage to the heart muscle by getting treatment quickly, ideally, within the first five minutes of the initial symptoms,” said Bush. “The difference between fast and delayed treatment can range from complete recovery to long-term disability or death.”

Signs of a heart attack can appear in such unexpected areas as the shoulder, neck, back or jaw. In addition, unusual sweating, light-headedness and nausea can be present. Women in particular may have mild symptoms such as nausea that make it more difficult to distinguish between a mild, non-serious ailment and the occurrence of a heart attack. To aggravate the problem, women often wait longer to seek help, thinking that only men are victims of heart attacks.

Bush says while it’s important to pay close attention to what your body is doing at the moment, it’s just as important to know your family history.

“Everyone with a family history of heart disease should have a keen awareness of the warning signs and take immediate action if they appear. People who are smokers, diabetics, are overweight or have high blood pressure are in this same high-risk group,” said Bush.

Here are additional tips for heart attack survival:

· Recognize the warning signs and take them seriously.

· Call 911. Don’t attempt to drive yourself to the hospital.

· Sit down, rest and remain calm.

· Chew an aspirin to help reduce damage to the heart.

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David Crawford
Medical Center Communications

Heart Disease; OSU Medical Center; Ross Heart Hospital