By Dr. Lonnie Schwirtlich
Physicians Premier Emergency Room
Consider Your Heart Health this Valentine’s Day…and Don’t Skip a Beat!
Texans, this is an important message about heart health from an emergency physician who has been practicing medicine for nearly forty years—be sure to pay close attention so that you can enjoy an especially vibrant Valentine’s Day this year.
What is a heart attack?
A heart attack occurs when one of the blood vessels supplying the muscles of your heart becomes blocked. The most important factor in determining whether you survive a heart attack is the time it takes to open that vessel back up to blood flow. For survivors of a heart attack, what makes a particularly critical difference in their recovery—and may even determine whether they’re once again able to walk across a room without getting short of breath—is the duration of time it takes to re-open the blocked blood vessel.
Every minute there is a blockage, the more heart muscle is damaged and the harder it is for the heart to function as it did before the attack.
Pay attention to the signs
It’s vital to recognize the many different subtle signs and symptoms that a heart attack is—or could be—occurring. And then, it’s essential that you get to an emergency facility that can start immediate treatment. The amount of time it takes to receive treatment for a heart attack is a matter of life-or-death. Your chance of dying from a heart attack drastically increases over the first 4 hours the blocked blood vessel is not reopened.
90 minutes after a blocked blood vessel, your chance of dying from that heart attack is about 3 percent and this percentage nearly doubles every 30 minutes after that until the 4-hour mark, after which it more gradually increases until about 12 hours from the start of the heart attack, at which point, most of the damage is done.
What to know
Medical facilities with the ability to remove a clot can open up those blood vessels with strong clot busters called thrombolytics, or better yet, by putting a catheter up into your heart and physically pushing the clot open with a balloon.
Emergency rooms, including all Freestanding Emergency Centers (FECs), have the ability to recognize and diagnose heart attacks and most keep these “Clot Busting Drugs” in stock for patients if they can’t get the patient into a Heart Cath lab within 90 minutes.
In the event of a heart attack, know that care options are readily available to you. Did you know that FECs are many times closer to you, are far less crowded, and more easily accessible, and often have much shorter wait times than traditional ERs? Also, FECs frequently can get you past the congestion and confusion of the typical Hospital ER into the Cath lab most able to treat you the fastest.
What to do if you think you’re suffering a heart attack
If you think you are having a heart attack, immediately call 911 and request an ambulance.
It is essential you get to the nearest emergency medical facility that can break apart your clot, stabilize you, and do a full work-up to ensure your condition doesn’t require additional intervention. And remember, if you think you’re having a medical emergency, All ERs are effectively in-network for the purposes of insurance coverage (courtesy of the Prudent Layperson Standard). Ultimately, if you think you’re having a heart attack, get to an ER facility that can get your blocked blood vessel re-opened as soon as possible.
When it comes to heart health, age doesn’t matter.
Give a great valentine to your own heart this year—be good to yourself and love your ticker!
Your loved ones are counting on you to do just that.