Faster Action Urged for Heart Attack Care
Don't Delay Getting to the Hospital, Call 911 at First Sign of Heart Attack Symptoms
WebMD News Archive
Speed Critical to Heart Attack Care continued...
Each year, an estimated 500,000 Americans suffer a severe heart
attack in which the blood that supplies the heart muscle with oxygen is
completely blocked. Prompt treatment is critical because if blood flow is not
restored permanent damage will occur and more heart muscle is lost as time
These new guidelines also endorse several public health
campaigns that will help contribute to a decrease in the rates of heart attacks
and the fatality associated with them. They also support additional research
for new treatments for patients who suffer them.
Antman says that many patients say they delay seeking treatment
because they're embarrassed or "they worry that they are crying wolf"
because the symptoms may be caused by indigestion or other nonheart attack
"It is not unusual for patients to wait two hours or longer
before seeking treatment when they should get help as quickly as possible to
minimize damage to their hearts," says Antman, who is professor of medicine
at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "Women in particular delay longer
because many still adhere to a message of the past identifying men as those
primarily at risk for heart attacks."
The guidelines say that disability and death from heart attacks
can be reduced if the patient and bystanders can recognize symptoms early,
activate the EMS system, and therefore shorten the time that it takes for the
patient to receive medical treatment.
Streamlining Heart Attack Treatment and Prevention
The guidelines, which appear in the June 15 issue of
Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, are designed to
help doctors and other health care providers make fast decisions about heart
attack treatment at all levels -- from emergency medical technicians who are
first on the scene, to the cardiologists at the hospital.
They contain recommendations about care after a heart attack,
such as taking an aspirin daily along with beta-blockers (drugs that help
prevent dangerous irregular heartbeats), ACE inhibitors, and
cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, as needed.
Other recommendations include:
- Communities should create a "chain of survival" for dealing with
heart attack and cardiac arrest.
- Family members of heart attack survivors should take CPR training and learn
how to use an automated external defibrillator.
- Health care providers should educate their patients about their heart
attack risk, how to recognize symptoms of a heart attack, and developing a plan
to respond to a potential heart attack.