Sep 03, 2012
The first minutes after the onset of chest pain or stroke are the most critical. Decisions made during this period can great influence that liklihood of success and the degree of recovery following a stroke or heart attack. From NY Times. Anahad OConnor
Anahad O’Connor tackles health myths.
Last week the entertainer Rosie O’Donnell surprised fans when she announced that she recently had a heart attack.
Ms. O’Donnell wrote on her blog that she felt an ache in her chest and soreness in her arms, followed by nausea and a “clammy” feeling. She took an aspirin, she said, but decided against calling 911. The next day she went to a hospital, where she learned one of her coronary arteries was 99 percent blocked, requiring a stent.
“I am lucky to be here,” she wrote. “Know the symptoms, ladies.”
Studies show that for men and women, the symptoms can differ. Men are more likely to experience the classic signs, like chest pain, shortness of breath and radiating pain in the neck and arms. Women are more likely to experience severe fatigue, indigestion and cold sweats.
Despite the differences, the response should be the same: Immediately call 911, then chew an aspirin, said Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.
Some people may suspect that chewing an aspirin, which inhibits platelet activity that could block arteries during an attack, makes little difference. But a study in The American Journal of Cardiology highlighted its importance. In a group of 12 subjects tested in a laboratory, chewing an aspirin tablet for 30 seconds before swallowing on an empty stomach prompted a 50 percent reduction in platelet activity in five minutes. It took 12 minutes to achieve the same effect when the aspirin was swallowed whole.
Dr. Merz said people who suspect they are having an attack should chew one full-strength tablet, which is 325 milligrams. But most important, she added, is to “get to an emergency room.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you experience symptoms of a heart attack, dial 911 first, then chew on an aspirin.