You’ve been on the phone for a few hours now, lying on your bed while your Ed Sheeran playlist blasts out of your Bluetooth speakers. You get the feeling that you should stand up and get a shower, but you won’t because after all, it’s the weekend and you deserve some lazy time after such a hectic week filled with missed deadlines and skipped meals.

Phone in bed

Suddenly, you feel a tightness in your chest. You chalk it up to the takeout mcburger you had for breakfast. Maybe it’s already gone bad from being in the fridge for over a week? At any rate, you figure will pass so you go back to browsing your social feeds.

And that’s when it strikes back with such intensity that you drop your precious smartphone which you just received after renewing your phone plan. But there’s no time to worry about cracked screens and bent chargers, because your vision is now slowly darkening while you panic and call for help. But even if help were to come, what would they do then?

cracked screen
Looking on the bright side of things, at least it didn’t happen in the rest room!

Thankfully you’re now reading this article, so go ahead, read on and share it to others just in case. Who knows, it might just save you from a very expensive medical bill (and more importantly from having to send in your brand new phone for repairs).

Heart attacks in the Philippines

The Philippines may have recently gained the world’s attention with a slew of deaths resulting from the government’s “war on drugs”, but the most notorious killer in the country still remains just right under our noses.

Leading causes of death in the Philippines
Figures from the Philippine Statistics Office (PSA) 2013 Report

According to data from the Philippine Heart Association, in addition to holding the top spot in the list of leading causes of deaths in the country, Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) have been on the rise for the past ten years or so.

While this trend is by no means unique to the country (CVD is the leading cause of death throughout the world), Filipinos are particularly vulnerable to the condition since a vast majority are not treated or seen by a cardiologist (mainly due to healthcare costs). Because of this, heart disease claims the life of at least ten Filipinos every hour.

Recognizing the symptoms

To identify whether you are or someone else is suffering from a heart attack, the most important thing is to know the symptoms. The usual symptoms are as follows:

  • Severe chest pain (it could be general heaviness or a pushing/squeezing pressure at the central or left part of the chest) which may last for at least 20 minutes. The sensation may also spread to the left upper arm, the abdomen, the neck, or even the jaw.
  • Nausea, dizziness, fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Profuse sweating

It’s also important to note that while a good majority of heart attack sufferers experience a combination of said symptoms, some display symptoms that are not usually associated with heart attacks: indigestion, anxiety, heartburn, etc.

Heart attack episode
…and knowing is half the battle!

There is even what is called a “silent heart attack”, which is when the symptoms feel mild and brief that they often get confused for regular discomfort or other less serious problems.

Also known by its more clinical name, Silent Myocardial Infarction (SMI), silent heart attacks can manifest itself as something as minor as fatigue, which most assume to be caused by poor sleep, or throat/chest discomforts, usually attributed to gastric reflux and heartburn.
With its unique characteristics, silent heart attacks are just as deadly as its more obvious version because it leaves scarring and damage to the sufferer’s heart – putting that person at greater risk of other heart problems.

Silent heart attack
Silent but just as deadly!

The best way to detect silent heart attacks is to play it safely and pre-empt the situation by keeping aware of your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Silent heart attacks can be detected by an electrocardiogram (EKG) or echocardiogram but only after it has done damage to the heart muscle.

What to do when a heart attack occurs

  1. Call for medical help

    Should you feel that you are experiencing a heart attack, the most important thing to do is to stay calm, stop whatever you were doing, find a safe place to rest (pull over to the side of the road if you’re driving), and call for medical help.

    If you’re within the Subic Bay Freeport, the emergency numbers are:

    • 9-1-1 for Landline Phones
    • 9-1-1-1 for Mobile
  2. emergency number
    Numbers to keep in mind!
  3. Take an aspirin (but only if you’re not allergic)

    Since it is a commonly stocked medicine in most med kits, aspirins are a viable medication to take while waiting for emergency medical services to arrive.

    Because most instances of heart attack are caused by a blood clot forming and clogging one of the blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart, aspirins can help by preventing the clot from getting bigger and giving the body a chance to break down the clot.

  4. aspirin
    4 out of 5 doctors say that if they were stranded on a deserted island with no lawyers, they wouldn’t need any aspirin.

What NOT to do!

  1. Coughing repeatedly

    Also known as “cough CPR”, this method has been widely published on the internet and is purported to keep yourself from passing out. But the truth of the matter is that it may very well be preventing the heart attack sufferer from getting the life-saving help they need.

    What coughing violently does is physically force blood from the chest up to the brain with the pressure exerted by the cough. In a hospital setting, patients are asked to do this for specific diagnostic procedures – as such, it is not useful outside of a hospital and without a medical professional to guide the procedure.

    Contrary to what is said on the internet, the American Heart Association does not endorse “cough CPR” for heart attack sufferers

    That said, “cough CPR” may be resorted to in the case of a cardiac arrest, which is an altogether different condition from a heart attack.

    During cardiac arrest, the heart suddenly stops beating, often caused by a malfunction in the heart’s bio-electrical system, while heart attack is instead when the heart’s oxygen supply is cut off leading to damage to heart tissue.

  2. Applying pressure on the chest area

    Just as a “cough CPR” is pointless in the case of a heart attack, employing cardiopulmonary stimulation (CPR) is unlikely to help. The only time a CPR would be useful is if the sufferer’s heart has completely stopped beating – which is not the case for a heart attack.

    Despite how cool Dr. Yoo Yeon Seok from the show “Romantic Doctor” makes it look on TV, CPR does little to help heart attack sufferers

    More importantly, the incorrect application of a CPR by someone who is not properly trained to do so may do more harm than good. And even if a person is qualified to give CPR, that person should first call for help and notify the emergency medical services before performing CPR on the sufferer.

  3. Taking nitroglycerin

    While aspirins are designed as a blood thinning medication, nitroglycerin instead works by temporarily widening blood vessels to improve blood supply to the heart. As far as studies have shown however, nitroglycerin does not seem to help a heart attack sufferer.

    Yes, it is the same chemical found in dynamites. Boom!

    It is more useful for patients with angina – which is when sufferers experience chest pains after strenuous activity. Instead of clots blocking the blood vessels, angina patients suffer from narrowed blood vessels – something which the nitroglycerine is specifically designed for.

    So, unless it has been previously prescribed by a doctor to the sufferer, nitroglycerine should not be taken or given.

After the Heart Attack

With all that, you’ve hopefully been thoroughly diagnosed and treated by medical professionals. To deal with the blocked artery, one of two things are usually performed. It could be a Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PPCI), which is when the blocked coronary artery is opened manually in order to restore blood flow to the heart and save as much of the heart muscle as possible. The other less invasive method is called Thrombolysis (also known as ‘clot buster’) which is the injecting of a medication into the veins in order to dissolve the blood clot.

Turns out the way to a man’s heart isn’t really through the stomach

Regardless of the procedure performed, a heart attack always leaves some permanent damage to the heart muscle (the longer treatment is withheld, the worse the damage is). What this means is that the heart’s ability to pump blood may significantly be weakened. Another side effect could be the narrowing of coronal arteries (angina) due to the strain of the attack.

The best way to deal with the condition from there is to lead a healthier lifestyle. While most are able to make a full recovery and are able to return to their previous activities with little adjustments, some may find that they are not able to do as much as they did before. In those cases, they can opt to take what is known as a cardiac rehabilitation course.

Some final thoughts

As the popular saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”, so it’s high time to be proactive. And how do you go about doing that, exactly?

It’s really quite simple, in all honesty:

  • Limit or outright stop smoking cigarettes and / or tobaccos
  • Exercise / participate in physical activities regularly (up to 30 minutes)
  • Eat a heart healthy diet (avoid too much salt and sugar)
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Ensure that you are getting enough quality sleep
  • Manage stress properly (refrain from overeating, drinking, smoking, etc.)
  • Visit you doctor regularly on top of your annual physical examination
couple workout
#relationshipgoals amirite?

The steps you need to take are all very self explanatory, the thing that will be the most difficult will be committing to the change. One very important notion to always bear in mind is that its is far more expensive (money-wise, time-wise, effort-wise) to treat an existing condition than to nip in the bud entirely.

As an example, the Japanese has shown the rest of the world that it is indeed possible to eliminate heart disease related deaths. From 1960s to the 2000s, mortality from cardiovascular diseases has declined drastically. Their nationwide campaign to hypertension (high blood pressure) prevention, enthusiastic anti-smoking movement and promotion of healthier lifestyles have done much to thwart the threat of heart related diseases.

Japanese elderly
And you can bet that they can still outrun you at the oval track!

It’s no wonder that Japan holds the position of being the top country with the highest longevity. Now that’s something that’s worthy to emulate, wouldn’t you agree?

how to survive a heart attack

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