Deciding to head to the emergency room (or Accident and Emergency, if you speak British English) often poses a dilemma: do you really need to go?
When it comes to chest discomfort or any other chest symptoms, the answer is yes – and don’t delay, doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi warn.
As World Heart Day approaches, Dr Faisal Hasan, a staff physician in the Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, says residents should pay close attention to changes in their body and get medical help when they feel unsteady or uncomfortable, because in many cases, time is of the essence.
“When it comes to reducing the damage to the heart and saving the life of a heart attack patient, time is muscle and every minute counts,” says Dr Hasan. “The longer a patient waits, the faster the heart muscle function continues to deteriorate. Unfortunately, we still see a lot of people come in late after experiencing symptoms of a heart attack and by then a lot of damage has been done.”
Chest pain associated with a heart attack can often be identified by its duration and severity. Here’s what to watch out for:
• Pain, which can radiate into the left arm, neck and jaw.
• Shortness of breath
• Suddenly breaking into a sweat
And when it comes to women and diabetics, symptoms can be atypical, such as unusual fatigue, stomach aches and nausea.
“There is no way to tell at home or in a non-medical setting whether this is related to a heart attack or a non-cardiac issue,” says Dr Hasan. “That’s why seeking immediate medical attention is of utmost importance.”
A survey of 1,000 UAE residents conducted by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in 2019 found that about 71 per cent have at least one major risk factor for heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is the official Chest Pain Centre for the Department of Health in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
When a patient arrives at the hospital’s 24/7 Emergency Department with symptoms of a heart attack, the care team conducts an electrocardiogram (ECG) test to check their heart activity within five minutes of their arrival. If the ECG confirms that they are having a heart attack, caused by blocked coronary arteries, the multidisciplinary medical team is mobilized to reopen the blockage within an hour to restore the blood flow.
“This is called the door-to-balloon time,” explains Dr Hasan. “Right after the ECG confirmation, we initiate a stopwatch to measure the time that it takes from a patient’s arrival to the time we inflate a balloon across the artery to open the blockage. The American Heart Association’s guidelines recommends that the artery be reopened within 90 minutes for best patient outcomes and at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi we have consistently done it in less than 60 minutes.”
• Tuesday, September 29, 2020 is World Heart Day. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is encouraging people to take small steps for a healthier heart with a new awareness campaign: ‘What makes your heart beat?’ The campaign aims to give residents more information about cardiovascular disease, risk factors, treatment options and tips.