What kills four times more women than breast cancer?
It is as common in women as it is in men, but the symptoms are different.
Heart Disease – would you know the symptoms?…..Would you KNOW What To Do?
Heart Attack, Cardiac Arrest and Cardiovascular diseases – the leading cause of death in Australia and there IS something all of us can do about it.…. If you want to KNOW What To Do, read on….
Cardiovascular disease can be grouped as heart, stroke and blood vessel diseases. They kill one Australian every 12 minutes This article will explore the two most common, Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest. They are not the same thing, although the end result unfortunately often is.
Only 9% of people survive a sudden cardiac arrest in Australia. They are the lucky few … lucky because when they collapse there’s been someone nearby who knew what to do.[i] (Take Heart Australia)
What is the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest?
Simply put, a heart attack is a ‘plumbing’ or circulation problem.
A cardiac arrest is an ‘electrical’ problem
For more detailed descriptions of a heart attack and cardiac arrest, click here.
How can I tell the difference?
To generalise, a cardiac arrest comes on quickly, leading to a sudden loss of consciousness (responsiveness), with the casualty not breathing. Your sex is not really an important factor here, it’s an electrical problem and the symptoms are the same for either sex…..the whole heart just stops beating. You may get a pre-warning, to find out more about those, click here
As a heart attack is a plumbing problem, (blood supply being blocked to a part of the heart causing that part of the heart to die), you typically get more warning. This article covers both cardiac arrest and heart attack, but we will focus more on heart attacks, especially the lesser well known female signs and symptoms.
KNOW What To Do
1/ Stop what you are doing and Call 000 early If 000 doesn’t work from your mobile or you are abroad and have your mobile phone, call 112*.
Any paramedic will tell you they would much rather come and find you alive and well than arrive too late and not be able to do anything ….So why don’t we call? Maybe we don’t know the signs and symptoms, maybe we don’t want to be an inconvenience, are in denial or think it can’t happen to us. Well, it’s happening to an Australian every 12 minutes!
2/ Once you know the paramedics are coming and they know where to come to, if you are alone, walk to the door, unlock it, and lay in the recovery position away from the door but in plain sight.
3/ If you are with someone who is either having a heart attack or cardiac arrest get them to stop what they are doing and rest. If the symptoms don’t ease, call 000.
4/ If they are unconscious (unresponsive) and are not breathing you must perform CPR. To find out more about CPR, Click here
5/ Shout for help as you want a defibrillator (AED). When the person arrives with the AED get them to put it on, following the instructions, whilst you continue CPR.
KNOW What NOT To Do
If you feel heart attack symptoms:
1/ Don’t delay getting help. Women generally wait longer than men before going to the emergency room.[i]. Even if you don’t think your symptoms are that bad or may pass, can you afford to risk it?
2/ Don’t drive yourself to the hospital or get a partner/friend to drive you. You need an ambulance. You can’t do CPR in a car, it’s dangerous to drive in a mad rush and if you arrive in an ambulance you will be seen much more quickly and they will have everything ready and waiting if needed. The paramedics can move more quickly through traffic and can save your life on the way if it comes to that.
3/ Don’t dismiss what you feel. People don’t want to spend hours in an emergency room if it isn’t a heart attack and women in particular worry about ‘feeling silly’ if they’re wrong. However, women are good at deciding what is typical for them, understanding when something unusual is happening and when to seek medical help.
This is the best description I’ve come across, written by a nurse who had a heart attack.
Women rarely have the same dramatic symptoms that men have … you know, the sudden stabbing pain in the chest, the cold sweat, grabbing the chest & dropping to the floor that we see in movies. Here is the story of my experience with a heart attack.
I had a heart attack at about 10:30 PM with NO prior exertion; NO prior emotional trauma that one would suspect might have brought it on. I was sitting all snugly & warm on a cold evening, with my purring cat in my lap, reading an interesting story my friend had sent me, and actually thinking, ‘Aah, this is the life, all cozy and warm in my soft, cushy Lazy Boy with my feet propped up.
A moment later, I felt that awful sensation of indigestion, when you’ve been in a hurry and grabbed a bite of sandwich and washed it down with a dash of water, and that hurried bite seems to feel like you’ve swallowed a golf ball going down the oesophagus in slow motion and it is most uncomfortable. You realise you shouldn’t have gulped it down so fast and needed to chew it more thoroughly and this time drink a glass of water to hasten its progress down to the stomach. This was my initial sensation–the only trouble was that I hadn’t taken a bite of anything since about 5:00 p.m.
After it seemed to subside, the next sensation was like little squeezing motions that seemed to be racing up my SPINE (hind-sight, it was probably my aorta spasms), gaining speed as they continued racing up and under my sternum (breast bone, where one presses rhythmically when administering CPR).
This fascinating process continued on into my throat and branched out into both jaws. ‘AHA!! NOW I stopped puzzling about what was happening — we all have read and/or heard about pain in the jaws being one of the signals of an MI (Myocardial Infarction) happening, haven’t we? I said aloud to myself and the cat, Dear God, I think I’m having a heart attack!
I lowered the foot rest dumping the cat from my lap, started to take a step and fell on the floor instead. I thought to myself, If this is a heart attack, I shouldn’t be walking into the next room where the phone is or anywhere else… but, on the other hand, if I don’t, nobody will know that I need help, and if I wait any longer I may not be able to get up in a moment.
I pulled myself up with the arms of the chair, walked slowly into the next room and dialled the Paramedics… I told her I thought I was having a heart attack due to the pressure building under the sternum and radiating into my jaws. I didn’t feel hysterical or afraid, just stating the facts. She said she was sending the Paramedics over immediately, asked if the front door was near to me, and if so, to un-bolt the door and then lie down on the floor where they could see me when they came in.
I unlocked the door and then laid down on the floor as instructed and lost consciousness, as I don’t remember the medics coming in, their examination, lifting me onto a gurney or getting me into their ambulance, or hearing the call they made to the hospital on the way, but I did briefly awaken when we arrived and saw that the radiologist was already there in his surgical blues and cap, helping the medics pull my stretcher out of the ambulance. He was bending over me asking questions (probably something like ‘Have you taken any medications?’) but I couldn’t make my mind interpret what he was saying, or form an answer, and nodded off again, not waking up until the Cardiologist and partner had already threaded the teeny angiogram balloon up my femoral artery into the aorta and into my heart where they installed 2 side by side stints to hold open my right coronary artery.
I know it sounds like all my thinking and actions at home must have taken at least 20-30 minutes before calling the paramedics, but actually it took perhaps 4-5 minutes before the call, and both the fire station and hospital are only minutes away from my home, and my Cardiologist was already to go to the OR in his scrubs and get going on restarting my heart (which had stopped somewhere between my arrival and the procedure) and installing the stents.
Why have I written all of this to you with so much detail? Because I want you all to know what I learned first-hand.
- Be aware that something very different is happening in your body, not the usual men’s symptoms but inexplicable things happening (until my sternum and jaws got into the act). It is said that many more women than men die of their first (and last) MI because they didn’t know they were having one and commonly mistake it as indigestion, take some anti-heartburn preparation and go to bed, hoping they’ll feel better in the morning when they wake up… which doesn’t happen. My female friends, your symptoms might not be exactly like mine, so I advise you to call the Paramedics if ANYTHING is unpleasantly happening that you’ve not felt before. It is better to have a ‘false alarm’ visitation than to risk your life guessing what it might be!
- Note that I said ‘Call the Paramedics’. Ladies, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!
Do NOT try to drive yourself to the hospital – you are a hazard to others on the road.
Do NOT have your panicked husband who will be speeding and looking anxiously at what’s happening with you instead of the road.
Do NOT call your doctor — he doesn’t know where you live and if it’s at night you won’t reach him anyway, and if it’s daytime, his assistants (or answering service) will tell you to call the Paramedics. He doesn’t carry the equipment in his car that you need to be saved! The Paramedics do, principally OXYGEN that you need ASAP. Your Dr will be notified later.
- Don’t assume it couldn’t be a heart attack because you have a normal cholesterol count. Research has discovered that a cholesterol elevated reading is rarely the cause of an MI (unless it’s unbelievably high and/or accompanied by high blood pressure). MIs are usually caused by long-term stress and inflammation in the body, which dumps all sorts of deadly hormones into your system to sludge things up in there. Pain in the jaw can wake you from a sound sleep. Let’s be careful and be aware. The more we know the better chance we could survive.
Heart Attacks and Cardiac Arrests
A heart attack is the same thing as a cardiac arrest, right? No,…. this, is not the case. In order to understand the difference between a heart attack and a cardiac arrest, it is first necessary to understand what happens in both of these processes.
What is a heart attack?
Over time, cholesterol and a fatty material (called plaque) can build up on the walls inside blood vessels that take blood to your heart, (arteries). This makes it harder for blood to flow freely. Most heart attacks happen when a piece of this plaque breaks off. A blood clot forms around the broken-off plaque, and it
blocks the artery.
The heart is a muscle, and just like all muscles it requires an oxygen-rich blood supply. This is provided to the heart by coronary arteries. A heart attack occurs when a blocked artery keeps oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by that artery begins to die. The longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage.
Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days or even weeks before the heart attack. The heart usually does not stop beating during a heart attack. Symptoms can differ in men and women.
What is a cardiac arrest?
A cardiac arrest is different to a heart attack. In a cardiac arrest the heart actually stops beating; whereas in a heart attack the heart normally continues to beat even though the blood supply to the heart is disrupted.
Sudden cardiac arrest often occurs without warning. It’s triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot send blood to the brain, lungs and other organs. Seconds later, a person loses consciousness and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if the victim does not receive treatment.
Is there a link between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest?
Yes, these two distinct heart conditions can be linked. Heart attacks increase the risk of a sudden cardiac arrest. A cardiac arrest can occur after a heart attack or during the recovery from a heart attack. Therefore, when sudden cardiac arrest occurs, a heart attack is a common cause. However it is important to note that many heart attacks do not automatically lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
There are other heart conditions may also disrupt the heart’s rhythm and lead to sudden cardiac arrest, but they are beyond the scope of this article.
So what can I do?
“The first five minutes holds the key to survival. We need more people of all ages who are trained and willing to provide immediate CPR, more and easily accessible defibrillators and we need a coordinated healthcare system.”
Professor Paul Middleton – Founder. – Take Heart Australia
Doing effective CPR is not hard to learn, it’s physically quite demanding as you have to push hard, but it’s so simple when shown the correct technique, even for slight people. Knowing when CPR is required is a bit harder and knowing what else needs to happen to ensure a positive outcome requires training.
Most first aid is carried out on loved ones by loved ones so it a surprises that more people don’t do a CPR course.
1/ Learn how to perform CPR
2/ Get familiar with where Defibrillators*** are location in your community and where you work plus learn how to use one
3/ Learn your DRSABCD
Not sure what course is best for you? click here.