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Heart Disease Health Center

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Heart Biases That Can Kill

Millions of Americans experience heart attack symptoms each year. So why do some get better treatment than others?

What You Can Do

  • Get wise to all the symptoms. In addition to chest pain or difficulty breathing, heart attack symptoms can also include an unexplained feeling of fullness; indigestion, gas, or nausea; lightheadedness; sweating; or pain in the arms, jaw, neck, or back. "Doctors have to be aware that if discomfort occurs from the navel to the nose, they should think of a heart attack first," says Curry.
  • Call 911. That ensures you'll get an ambulance to take you to the hospital and therefore be cared for more quickly. Guidelines for hospital accreditation require that ambulance-arriving patients suspected of having heart attacks must get an EKG within 10 minutes after arrival and a doctor's exam within 30; those arriving on their own don't fall under these guidelines, says Curry.
  • Bring an advocate. A friend or family member can better serve as the doctor's eyes and ears. "The patient may talk about some pain, but a spouse will be more likely to describe other symptoms. Your spouse is probably more likely to tell the doctor of sweating or other symptoms."

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