February is American Heart Month — a time to focus on your cardiovascular health and learn about your risks for heart disease.
During this month, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue invites you to join us in raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack and the importance of immediately calling 911 in the event you or someone nearby experiences symptoms.
Unlike a sudden cardiac arrest that strikes suddenly and includes a loss of consciousness, a heart attack can develop slow enough that you are not aware you are having a medical emergency. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely.
Symptoms typically include:
- Chest discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and returns. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Upper body discomfort, such as pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath before, during, or after other discomforts.
- Other signs, including breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
The most common heart attack symptom for women and men is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely to experience other symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, back or jaw pain, pressure in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, fainting, or extreme fatigue.
The heart is a muscle. It can deteriorate with each passing minute you delay medical treatment. Don’t ignore your symptoms, and don’t drive yourself to the hospital.
Firefighters and paramedics often hear heart attack patients say, “I wasn’t sure it was a heart attack,” or “I didn’t want to bother anyone.”
Remember, TVF&R crews are here for you. Our highly trained firefighter paramedics can diagnose a heart attack and start treatment right away. Crews can also relay your EKG information to the hospital, enabling its staff to activate special heart teams and prepare for your arrival.
A heart attack can cause sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. Sudden cardiac arrest leads to death when the heart stops working properly. This can be reversed if hands-only CPR is performed and an automated external defibrillator (AED) is used to shock the heart and restore a normal heart rhythm.
Studies show that CPR can double or triple a cardiac arrest patient’s chance of survival, but only 46 percent of those who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital get bystander help, according to the American Heart Association.
Every minute CPR is delayed, the chance of survival decreases by 10 percent. Your assistance in performing hands-only CPR until crews arrive can make a difference. Hands-only CPR has just two easy steps: Call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of the disco song “Stayin’ Alive.”
We encourage community members willing to perform CPR to download TVF&R’s free PulsePoint smartphone app so that they can be alerted when someone is in need of this lifesaving assistance.
We believe that the strength of an entire community fighting side by side will ultimately prove to be more powerful than the nation’s No. 1 killer — heart disease.
For more information about PulsePoint, symptoms of cardiac emergencies, and CPR training, click here. Thank you for your willingness to team up with our crews to save more lives and strengthen the chain of survival for cardiac patients.