Dr Chris looks at how your ears may indicate risk of heart disease
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Heart attacks are a medical emergency whereby the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. To minimise the risk of permanent damage to the heart muscle, it is important to act on the warning signs as soon as they appear. However, insufficient knowledge about the symptoms can slow down the response rate.
Acutely aware of the risks posed by gaps in knowledge, a study was conducted in the US to ascertain and characterise symptom knowledge among a specific population cohort.
Correct symptoms were defined as those consistent with a published list of heart attack symptoms.
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Arm or shoulder pain or discomfort
- Jaw pain
- Back pain
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling of impending doom.
What did the study find out?
Researchers surveyed participants in the Rapid Early Action for Coronary Treatment (REACT) trial.
The REACT trial was a randomized study of community intervention to improve cardiovascular treatments by reducing patient delay to access the health care system.
The survey was conducted among 1294 adult respondents in the 20 study communities.
Chest pain or discomfort was reported as a symptom by 89.7 percent of respondents and was thought to be the most important symptom by 56.6 percent.
Knowledge of arm pain or numbness, shortness of breath, sweating, and other heart attack symptoms were less common.
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In their concluding remarks, researchers said: “Knowledge of chest pain as an important heart attack symptom is high and relatively uniform.
“However, knowledge of the complex constellation of heart attack symptoms is deficient in the US population, especially in low socioeconomic and racial or ethnic minority groups.
“Efforts to reduce delay in seeking medical care among persons with heart attack symptoms should address these deficiencies in knowledge.”
How to respond to heart attack symptoms
If you experience heart attack symptoms, it’s important you get medical attention immediately.
“Don’t worry about wasting paramedics’ time – a heart attack is a medical emergency,” explains the British Heart Foundation (BHF).
The BHF advises the following steps:
- Call 999 for an ambulance
- Sit down and stay calm
- Take a 300mg aspirin if you have one within reach
- Wait for the paramedics.
As the health body explains, quick treatment to get the blood flowing to your heart muscle again is important.
“This can reduce the amount of permanent damage to your heart and save your life.”
How to prevent a heart attack
Fortunately, you can ward off the threat of having a heart attack by making lifestyle changes.
In fact, this is the most effective way to prevent having a heart attack (or having another heart attack, notes the NHS.
There are three main steps you can take to help prevent a heart attack (as well as a stroke), says the health body.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet
- Do not smoke
- Try to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.
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