HCN News & Notes

‘Education is Key’ with Heart Attack Symptoms

SPRINGFIELD —National studies have proven that a greater number of lives are saved when heart-attack patients are quickly treated with angioplasty in a state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization laboratory.

So, knowing the signs of a heart attack can be a matter between life and death.

“Education is key to knowing the symptoms,” said Dr. Amir Lotfi, a cardiologist in the Baystate Heart and Vascular Program. “When you realize that you are having symptoms that you are unfamiliar with, whether jaw pain or shoulder or arm discomfort, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be on the left side and can occur on the right, it’s better to be on the safe side and get to an emergency room immediately, because time is muscle.”

The phrase “time is muscle” refers to the fact that once a heart attack strikes, the person immediately begins to lose precious heart muscle.That muscle can continue to suffer damage until the person receives life-saving angioplasty to open the blocked vessel and restore blood flow to the heart.

Peter Zimmerman of Leverett knew the signs, although he wasn’t having a heart attack at the time. He noticed when he was working in the yard that he needed to rest quite frequently. A visit to Baystate Health cardiologist Dr. Steven DiPillo confirmed his suspicions after a cardiac catheterization showed he needed a five-way bypass operation – which was performed by cardiac surgeon Dr. David Deaton at Baystate Medical Center.

Thanks to knowing something wasn’t quite right with his heart, and recognizing the symptoms of heart disease/heart attack — his unusual fatigue — Zimmerman averted a heart attack and quite possibly saved his life.

Today, Zimmerman grows stronger every day as he continues his cardiac rehabilitation at Baystate Franklin Medical Center in Greenfield.

Thinking back on what could have been if he hadn’t had his symptoms checked out, Zimmerman said, “I’m extremely grateful to be here and for Dr. Deaton who saved my life.

Classic heart attack symptoms, whether for women or men, can include chest pain or discomfort, unusual upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, unusual or unexplained fatigue, lightheadedness or sudden dizziness, and nausea.

“The most common symptom of a heart attack continues to be chest pain where you hear many people say it feels like an elephant is sitting on their chest. But not all women experience chest pain and they need to be aware of the more subtle symptoms they might be unfamiliar with such as unusual fatigue, sweating or shortness of breath, and neck, jaw and back pain,” said Dr. Lotfi.

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