Surviving a heart attack is not an easy task as it requires an awareness of the symptoms, delivery of emergency services if required and reaching a hospital on time and in such a situation, time is of utmost importance, as a delay of even a minute can prove fatal. In India, a growing number of people are suffering from cardiac arrests and heart attacks due to several lifestyle and genetic factors but since many of these factors cannot always be controlled, reaching the hospital by recognising the symptoms of a heart attack can go a long way in saving the patient’s life.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Zakia Khan, Senior Consultant-Interventional Cardiology at Fortis Hospital in Kalyan, shared about the symptoms of a heart attack and said, “A heart attack is a medical emergency when there is a blockage in the blood flow to the heart and is generally caused by a blocked Coronary Artery. When this happens, it can damage the heart and even prove to be fatal!” She revealed that some common symptoms of a heart attack include –
1. Discomfort, particularly in the chest: This pain can sometimes last for more than a few minutes and can happen repetitively
2. Uneasiness in body parts: In some cases, a heart attack can cause discomfort in the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or pain in abdomen above the navel
3. Shortness of breath: Another common symptom of heart attack is breathlessness which can be accompanied by tightness in the chest. Heart attack presenting with shortness of breath is more dangerous as it involves a large area of heart, possibly causing severe Left Ventricular Dysfunction
4. Additional systemic symptoms: Associated symptoms like cold sweat, nausea, vomiting, light headedness and dizziness can also occur mainly in women as opposed to men
Dr Zakia Khan advised, “If you think you are suffering from symptoms related to a heart attack or see someone experiencing the same, rushing to a hospital is the key, this is prudent even if the signs disappear after some time. Getting to a hospital is always better so a medical expert can assess the situation, rather than self-diagnosing the condition. Also, it goes without saying that if a patient gets access to treatment early, they have a better chance at survival and recovery.”
Talking about what phases does a patient experience in event of a cardiac arrest, she said, “In general, there are three primary phases that a patient experiencing a cardiac issue might experience. These include ‘panic, denial and depression’ phases at different stages. While this can affect their treatment process, it is essential to address them compellingly.” Encouraging to learn more about each step in more detail, she highlighted the phases as –
1. Panic Phase: Initial symptoms during a cardiac event can include gas, acidity, and nausea, which might be related to a heart ailment. In most situations, they can sometimes get ignored as fundamental health issues, which is why a lot of people look for temporary relief from these health issues. In such a scenario, not reaching out to the doctor promptly and taking antacids (basis self-diagnosis) can cause a delay in primary treatment. The patient and their caregiver must communicate speak about their symptoms and pre-existing conditions so that an accurate diagnosis can be made. When such patients are brought into the hospital, an ECG and blood tests like Troponin (cardiac injury markers) are conducted. Once the diagnosis of heart attack is confirmed, it is important to listen and understand the care pan your doctor chalks for you. Get an Angiography and primary Angioplasty done, which is the treatment of choice in such situations. Delay of every minute that passes, the heart could suffer permanent damage.
2. Denial Phase: After a person has been diagnosed with a potential heart attack or is at risk of having one, they tend to experience a lot of denial regarding their treatment options. Due to this, many of them look for second or third opinions from other doctors, causing delay in primary treatment after the diagnosis. A delay in such a scenario can lead to severe complications and worsen the heart condition, causing permanent damage to the heart. Many patients think it is an issue of acidity or Cervical Spondylosis hence, seek multiple opinions. Once the patient is convinced about the disease and aware about their condition, they tend to panic again and start looking for immediate solutions and fast recovery options but this is not always possible, as recovery from a cardiac arrest requires time and patience. The patient will also need to make drastic lifestyle changes, including their daily habits, diet and exercise.
3. Depression Phase: After getting the necessary treatment, patients with heart disease tend to go into a depressive phase and may sometimes not even want to disclose their health issues to their friends and family. However, the key thing to remember at this point is that depression can affect the recovery process and seeking professional help from a mental health expert is highly recommended. It is important to resume normal life and get into a cardiac rehabilitation program under the guidance of your treating doctor. Resuming work early leads to better recovery and lesser chances of depression. Most of the patients will need lifestyle modification and long-term medication followed by a routine check-up as per the expert’s guidance.