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Early Heart Attack Care

Early Heart Attack Care (EHAC)

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The primary goal of EHAC® is to promote awareness that heart attacks have "beginnings" that may occur days or weeks before the actual event. EHAC focuses on intervention during these beginnings to help prevent acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) and cardiac arrest.

The second goal of EHAC is to teach the public that individuals with heart attack symptoms be evaluated and treated in an emergency department (ED) or chest pain center (CPC). Our experts are trained in the rapid evaluation of patients, bringing together ED physicians, cardiologists and nurses who work as a team to establish a comprehensive management plan for patients with chest pain.

Not every heart attack displays the same symptoms. In fact, many people ignore the early signs of a heart attack, simply dismissing the more subtle symptoms because they expect the drama associated with a "Hollywood" episode. Unfortunately, when these early signs are ignored, we miss a "window of opportunity" to prevent the attack before any heart damage can occur. The following signs and symptoms are ones to be aware of in yourself or in your family members:

Shortness of Breath without Exertion

Although most of us experience shortness of breath when we are exercising or expending energy outside of what we do normally, difficulty breathing when performing normal activities is an early sign that should be investigated.

Heartburn

The sensation of heartburn or a burning in the chest can be mapped to spicy food and quickly discarded. This sensation can also be an early sign of a heart attack, especially if the condition becomes chronic. If you find yourself taking over-the-counter antacids on a regular basis, the underlying cause of your trouble needs to be discussed with your doctor.

Discomfort or Pain

Although we think of heart pain as pain occurring in the area of the heart, for some individuals this is not the case. People who have suffered a heart attack have described their early symptoms everywhere from crushing to squeezing to pressure occurring in the chest and even other areas of the body. Shoulders, neck, and jaw are areas reportedly affected prior to a heart attack. Always seek immediate attention if you are experiencing this type of pain, even if the symptoms disappear or are only intermittent.

A Feeling of Impending Doom

Some patients describe a feeling of anxiety and fear prior to the occurrence of a heart attack. Although not usually thought of as an early symptom, and certainly attributable to other matters, this "feeling" can still be an early indicator, especially when combined with any of the other symptoms listed above.

Information from the American College of Cardiology: http://www.scpcp.org/advocacy/community.aspx