Am I Having a Heart Attack?

By Randall Kenneth Jones

Not long ago, I woke up and realized something was terribly wrong. I was nauseated and dizzy—and my heart was racing faster than a NASCAR driver on his last lap.

As I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled for that morning, I faced a dilemma: attempt to drive myself to my appointment at Physicians Regional-Marco Island or call 911 and seek immediate medical attention.

I wisely chose the latter.

Enough cannot be said about the importance of the 911 option—or the extraordinary men and women who represent Collier County EMS. I had the comfort of receiving qualified medical attention within four minutes of placing the phone call.

Yes, I had a working knowledge of heart attack warning signs: chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea and/or lightheadedness.

I even knew that my female friends would be somewhat more likely to experience symptoms such as nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

However, when faced with a potential health crisis, don’t be your own physician. In fact, I recall a recent image making the rounds on social media. The photo was of a coffee cup with the following message: “Please do not confuse your Google Search with my Medical Degree.”

Yes, self-education is key in managing one’s health—but we must be cautious when it comes to our sources of information.

Although I exhibited a number of the symptoms listed above, I did not experience a heart attack. Yes, I was lucky, but I knew it was time to seek out qualified answers on chest pain and heart attack. And for me, it all starts with a trusted physician.

I reached out to a couple of Physicians Regional Medical Group primary care physicians to get answers to some important questions.

When it comes to cardiac care, what is the one piece of advice you give all your patients?

Dr. Elias Shaheen, Family Medicine, Physicians Regional Medical Group: “Prevention is key. If we can establish healthy habits early in life, they will lead to better cardiac and overall health as we age. I try to help patients form a good balance of diet, exercise, and relaxation to help prevent cardiac issues in the future.”

When it comes to cardiac health, what is the biggest mistake you see patients make?

Dr. Doris Corey, Family Medicine, Physicians Regional Medical Group: “The biggest mistake is remaining sedentary when advised to increase activity—or stopping meds on your own, not fully understanding why you may need a certain medication.”

Dr. Shaheen: “Waiting too long to address a problem. The earlier you catch cardiac issues, the better the outcome.”

For heart attacks, is there anything that may be incorrectly “assumed” by the public?

Dr. Corey: “If the ‘classic symptoms’ of heart attack are not there, such as crushing chest pain radiating to left arm, then patients falsely assume they are ‘OK’ and do not investigate further: i.e. chest pressure with nausea or vomiting, ongoing fatigue, or shortness of breath, etc.”

What typically prompts your decision to refer a patient to a cardiologist?

Dr. Corey: “This decision is multifactorial and includes the review of current symptoms, past medical history, smoking history, family history, and clinical index of suspicion.”

Dr. Shaheen: “If a patient has a strong family history of cardiac disease, sudden cardiac death, or genetic cholesterol problems, I will refer them to a cardiologist as early as possible. If our testing shows a cardiac abnormality, I refer patients to a cardiologist for evaluation and more intensive testing.”

In my case, EMS urged me to go to Physicians Regional Medical Center – Pine Ridge; however, it wasn’t until later that I understood why this suggestion was made.

Physicians Regional Medical Center – Pine Ridge received full Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI Accreditation from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC) on Nov. 19, 2015.

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States, with 600,000 people dying annually of heart disease. More than five million Americans visit hospitals each year with chest pain.

SCPC’s goal is to significantly reduce the mortality rate of these patients by teaching the public to recognize and react to the early symptoms of a possible heart attack, reduce the time that it takes to receive treatment, and increase the accuracy and effectiveness of treatment.

What are the benefits of Physicians Regional’s recent SCPC accreditation?

Dr. Shaheen: “To me, it is invaluable! We are part of a hospital system that can provide the best care for someone who is having—or had—a heart attack. This means quicker diagnosis, faster treatment, and better patient outcomes. When you come to our ER or call 911 for chest pain, you know the staff here is trained to provide the best workup and treatment.”

As they say, knowledge is power. Of course, I’m also fortunate I only had a really really really bad tummy ache.

Physician Regional Medical Group
For information on the physicians referenced above, visit PhysiciansRegionalMedicalGroup.com or call 239-348-4221.

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