BENGALURU: Cardiovascular disease has reached epidemic proportions in India and is one of the leading causes of death in the population. The alarming aspect of this is that heart disease is now affecting younger individuals and the main cause is the stressful sedentary lifestyle with an increase in the incidence of hypertension, diabetes and smoking in the younger population.
There have been great advances in the treatment options available for heart attack patients. Despite this, the morbidity and mortality associated with heart attacks remain high. One of the main reasons attributable to this is the lack of awareness of symptoms associated with a heart attack.
The majority of the time heart attack happens out of the blue and it becomes very difficult to know what right action needs to be taken.
Chest pain is the most common symptom associated with a heart attack. However, a heart attack can present in various different ways. The other symptoms associated with heart attack are shortness of breath, sweating, feeling extremely weak and tired, giddiness and collapse.
Diabetic patients especially may present with these atypical symptoms rather than chest pain. Also, female patients can more commonly present with atypical symptoms. Chest pain can be present in the centre of the chest, right side or left side, in the jaw, back or on the left arm. Also very commonly we see patients present with pain in the upper part of the abdomen in the centre (epigastric region). The pain can be burning in nature and this causes confusion with gastritis.
Heart pain or gastritis pain can be very similar and leads to many patients mistaking heart attack for gastritis. It is very important to note that diagnosing heart attack just by the nature of pain is very difficult and hence further tests are needed like ECG, echocardiogram and blood troponin levels. Heart attack is an emergency and early treatments save lives.
The golden hour concept says that all heart attacks have to be treated within 12 hours for the best outcomes. Angioplasty treatment provided within six hours of the onset of symptoms results in almost complete recovery. The benefits of the treatment start coming down beyond 12 hours and hence the need to make an urgent diagnosis. Any heart attack patient has a 50% risk of dying whilst at home/work which reduces to 10% if they reach the hospital alive.
Unfortunately, even now we come across a significant number of patients who arrive late and a lot of damage has already been done by the time they reach the hospital. In these situations, the treatments become riskier and less beneficial. It is always better to get oneself checked out in the hospital rather than make a self-diagnosis. It is better to end up in the hospital with gastritis rather than end up in the house with a heart attack.
In summary, a heart attack is very common and symptoms can be varied. Effective treatments are available and they improve overall survival significantly when given in a timely manner. It is therefore important to be aware of all the symptoms associated with heart attacks and seek medical help urgently in these situations.
Dr Ganesh Nallur Shivu
Senior Interventional Cardiologist Kauvery Hospitals