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Don’t Delay Reporting Chest Pain

Posted: February 27, 2019

If you or someone you know is experiencing chest pain or other heart attack symptoms, don’t hesitate to get help. Time is of the essence. That was the message delivered by emergency medicine physician Blake Cleveland, M.D., during the latest #OurDocTalk chat on the NorthBay Facebook page.

#OurDocTalk is a series of live Facebook chats with NorthBay Healthcare providers, designed to answer questions on important health issues. Dr. Cleveland, who is director of NorthBay’s Chest Pain Center, focused on what to do during a heart health emergency.

Broadcasting from the NorthBay simulation lab in the Green Valley Administration Center, Dr. Cleveland began with an explanation of acute coronary syndrome, a term for situations in which the blood supplied to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked. He explained what happens in the heart during a heart attack and detailed angina and its symptoms including chest pain or pressure, shortness of breath, and other symptoms such as nausea, lightheadedness or breaking out in a cold sweat.

“If you have any of these symptoms, while at rest and without#OurDocTalk exertion, you should be seeing a doctor or coming to the emergency room to make sure you are not having a heart attack,” he said. “Don’t push off symptoms and say ‘Oh, it’s just heart burn.’”

Symptoms can vary, he noted. “It may be as simple as heart palpitations or include true chest pain, pressure or a burning sensation in your chest. It can have radiating pain up to your jaw or your back or arm,” he said. “And the symptoms can be masked if you have other health issues such as diabetes, which affects your vessels and nerves of the body, so you may not recognize the symptoms of a heart attack.”

The quickest way to get help is by calling 911, he added.

“If you are having a heart attack (emergency responders) can identify it and let us know in the emergency department so we are prepared for your arrival and can give you the expedient care that will help to save you and your heart muscle,” Dr. Cleveland said.

He also demonstrated an AED (automated external defibrillator), detailing how it works and can walk you through the steps to help someone whose heart rhythm needs to be “electrically altered.”

Finally, he talked about what a patient can expect once they arrive in the emergency room with symptoms of a coronary issue, explaining that a number of blood tests and scans are done to determine what is happening with a patient’s heart and what, if any, interventional action is needed.

The bottom line, he said, is to not to ignore symptoms and think they’ll just go away. “We’re never unhappy to have you present to us so we can help determine if you need acute or sub-acute care for your condition,” he said. “We are here as a resource to help you make good medical decisions. Don’t hesitate to come in.”

The entire chat can be viewed on the NorthBay Facebook page at Facebook.com/NorthBayHealthcare or on the NorthBay YouTube channel.