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Published on May 04, 2015

Seconds Count when it comes to a Heart Attack

Call 9-1-1 for the Fastest Life-Saving Treatment

Time matters when it comes to a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, for every second that goes by, heart tissue is lost. Calling 9-1-1 when you think you may be having a heart attack is crucial to saving your life.

“When making the decision whether to call 9-1-1 or drive to the hospital, the choice is clear – call the professionals. Having Emergency Medical Services (EMS) respond to your medical emergency starts your care and treatment at the bedside,” explains Dave Ritter, Captain and EMS Coordinator for the Palos Heights Fire Protection District.

Mark Duke, Lieutenant and EMS Administrator for the Orland Fire Protection District, agrees. Time spent driving can significantly delay treatment and ultimately could result in disaster. The goal is to re-establish blood flow to the blocked area within 90 minutes from the onset of symptoms. The total time involves first contact with paramedics until the patient arrives at the hospital’s Cardiac Catheterization Lab where percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) can be performed, which opens the blocked artery with balloons and stents.”

EMS providers are equipped with knowledge and resources to begin treatment before getting to the hospital. New medications and procedures can stop some heart attacks in progress, reducing disability and saving lives. To be effective, these treatments must be given quickly after heart attack symptoms first appear.

That’s why it’s critical to call 9-1-1 immediately if you think you are having a heart attack.

In many cases, the care provided by EMS allows the hospital to prepare for the advanced measures that may be required.

“New communication modalities between paramedics, the emergency departments of community hospitals and cardiologists have led to significantly quicker response times in treating heart attacks. This leads to faster, more efficient patient care which in turn leads to better outcomes for patients,” explains Stephen Wiet, M.D., an Interventional Cardiologist and Medical Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Palos Community Hospital. “The time saved by calling paramedics and activating the hospital’s cardiac care team can be the difference between life and death. That is why we endorse a patient contacting the local paramedics when a heart attack is suspected.”

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women. While it doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, don’t dismiss any signs of a heart attack. The symptoms can be deceiving and vary greatly. From the Hollywood version of a heart attack – extreme pressure in the chest and breaking out in a cold sweat – to mild aching in the jaw and neck, no matter the symptoms you experience, a heart attack is a life-and-death emergency.

During a heart attack, a blockage occurs in one or more of the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart muscles. The obstruction usually takes the form of a blood clot that prevents part of the heart tissue from receiving oxygen, resulting in heart damage.

So again, don't delay — get help right away!

With state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities, treatment technologies, and post-procedure care and education, Palos can treat life-threatening cardiac conditions at the first sign of symptoms and get patients back to their lives and loved ones as quickly and safely as possible. The dedicated team of 50 cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists at Palos perform more than 2,000 advanced cardiac procedures annually, including coronary bypass, stenting, balloon angioplasty, valve replacement and pacemaker implantation.

Time = Muscle

Reduce the Risk of Permanent Damage to your Heart and Know the Warning Signs of a Heart Attack:
  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, heaviness or pain in the center of the chest. It lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
  • As with men, the most common heart attack symptom of women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience other common symptoms – shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.

If you have any of these signs, don’t wait! Call 9-1-1.