Am I Having a Heart Attack?

You’re watching television when you notice a change in your breathing. You feel every breath, whereas just minutes before your favorite show held your attention. Each breath seems a little more forced than the one before. Your chest feels as if someone is sitting on it. The pressure intensifies to the point where it feels like the person sitting on your chest is now using your body for a trampoline. Your skin is clammy. Nausea sets in. The pain spreads throughout your arms, shoulders, and neck. Your stomach aches.

“Am I having a heart attack?” you ask yourself, hoping that it’s something as simple as heartburn, indigestion, or even a panic attack.

Be safe. Always call 9-1-1.

Emergencies come in varying degrees. No one enjoys experiencing pain. Some health problems, such as a sprained ankle, can be handled by visiting your family doctor or a local clinic. For more serious medical emergencies, such as heart attacks and strokes, time is a critical factor in mitigating damage and even saving a life.

“Remain calm when an emergency strikes. Being prepared can save your life or the life of a loved one,” says Meredith Sutton, Registered Nurse (RN) and Clinical Manager of the Emergency Room at Danville Regional Medical Center (DRMC).

According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are a number of symptoms that may indicate an oncoming heart attack or stroke. Symptoms of a heart attack include unusual pain in the center of the chest, breathlessness, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, or having acold sweat. A person suffering a stroke may exhibit sudden confusion, impaired vision in one or both eyes, difficulty walking or speaking, a severe headache, or numbness or weakness in the extremities. Strokes, most often, affect one side of the body and can be diagnosed by asking the victim to raise both arms, smile, and speak a simple sentence. If the individual has problems performing any of these tasks, he or she is likely having a stroke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States, the number one killer of men and women is heart attacks, while the number three killer is strokes. So, what do you do when you think you or someone around you is experiencing one of these major issues?

“Maintaining self-control during a health emergency could save your life. Panicking only makes things worse,” says Dr. Ian Greenwald, Medical Director of Emergency Services at Danville Regional.

Knowing these steps can minimize physical damage during a medical emergency. Follow this procedure and wait for medical professionals to arrive.

If You Think You’re Having a Heart Attack…

Call 911. The most critical step is alerting emergency services to your need for assistance. The sooner they are contacted, the sooner they will be able to help.

Take an aspirin if instructed to by a doctor or health professional. A heart attack or stroke occurs when blood is unable to reach the heart or brain, respectively, due to a blockage. Aspirin thins the blood and makes it easier for blood to flow through a congested artery.

Until help arrives, lie down with your feet elevated above your heart. This will improve breathing and circulation and may also help you relax.

Remain calm. Try to prevent a sharp increase in blood pressure by focusing on taking deep breaths and not becoming too excited about the situation

Wait for an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) to arrive and transport you to the nearest hospital. If you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, never drive yourself to the hospital; you may lose consciousness and have a wreck.

Formulate a plan now for emergency situations to give yourself or your loved ones the best chance possible for survival and recovery. You can learn more about preparing for and handling medical emergencies at Danville Regional.

The Way You Sleep Can Save Your Life


There are really two schools of thought on sleeping. Sleeping on your back is dangerous if you suffer from sleep apnea because your throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep and lead to increased snoring and instances of sleep apnea which can lead to death. Sleeping on your side increases the risk of having a heart attack or stroke while you sleep because you are causing compression on the lung closest to the bed which slows down the blood circulating through that lung.

So what do you do?

The solution is simple. If you don’t suffer from sleep apnea or intense snoring, then sleep on your back. It will lower your chance of heart attack or stroke during sleep. If you do suffer from sleep apnea or intense snoring that lessens when you sleep on your side, then seek medical attention for the sleep apnea condition. Once you’ve solved the sleep condition, sleep on your back. If you experience severe snoring, sleep apnea, or any of the early warning signs for heart attack or stroke, it is vital that you visit a primary care physician as soon as possible to evaluate the best course of treatment for your specific situation.

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