Survival Strategies What to do in a Heart Emergency

April 11, 2013

Survival Strategies: What to do in a heart emergency.

It may be tempting to write off chest discomfort as the result of something you ate or just a fluke, but the discomfort might be more than that – it could be a heart attack.

While no one wants to anticipate a heart attack, preparing for a cardiac crisis is one of the most important steps you can take toward a positive outcome. Following these important guidelines may help.

First, know the signs. These symptoms should prompt an immediate reaction:

  • chest discomfort or pain that may feel heavy, tight, or crushing
  • pain that radiates from the chest to the shoulder, back arm, neck, or jaw
  • prolonged pain in the upper abdomen
  • rapid or fluttering heartbeats
  • a feeling of weakness, lightheadedness, or dizziness
  • nausea, vomiting, or intense sweating
  • difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • tingling in the hands, fingers, or wrists
  • skin that looks grayish or pale or feels cold or clammy to the touch
  • a feeling of exhaustion or doom
  • unexplained edema (swelling), particularly of the lower legs and/or ankles

If any signs or symptoms are present, immediately dial 911. Try to remain calm and speak clearly. Be ready to provide the following information: your address, phone number, symptoms, and general condition.

The emergency department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Waycross is the best place for you to be. There, you’ll be given oxygen and pain medication. If you didn’t already have an electrocardiogram (EKG) in the ambulance, you will receive one in the emergency department so the specialists can track your heart’s electrical activity. Other tests will be done to find out what caused your heart attack. In the event of a heart attack, “time is muscle” according to cardiologist Timothy T. Catchings, M.D.

“The heart is a pump made of muscle,” says Catchings. “During a heart attack, that muscle begins to die. Our goal is to restore full life to your heart by opening your arteries within 90 minutes of the time you arrive at the hospital. Restoring blood flow to your heart will save your life. And it’s something we can do right here in Waycross. Patients and their families can enjoy receiving first-class care and treatment without leaving the comfort of Waycross. That means a lot during a crisis.”

Once your coronary arteries are clot-free, your heart will be protected from further damage. Your physicians will work with you to develop a cardiac rehab plan that is right for you, which includes an exercise regimen and healthy diet.

For more information on the services offered at Mayo Clinic Health System in Waycross, visit

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