Heart Attack; A perceived inability to act on symptoms could signify a life-threatening situation, according to research published today in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Most deaths from heart attack occur in the first few hours after the start of symptoms. Quick treatment is crucial to restore blood flow to blocked arteries and save lives.
The acute treatment
The time it takes for patients to interpret and respond to symptoms is the main reason for delays in getting to a hospital and the care they need. The study enroll 326 patients undergoing acute treatment for a first or second heart attack. Participants completed the validated questionnaire Patients’ appraisal, emotions and action tendencies preceding care-seeking in acute myocardial infarction (PA-AMI).
Patients in the study waited a median of three hours before seeking medical help. Some delayed for more than 24 hours. So what went through their minds during that period? This study, for the first time, identified two general reactions. A perceived inability to act had a significant impact on patients who wait more than 12 hours. These patients said: They lost all power to act when my symptoms began; They did not know what to do when they got my symptoms; my symptoms paralyzed me; and “they felt they had lost control of myself when they got my symptoms.
heart attack symptoms
Inaccurate symptom appraisal also affect those who delayed for more than twelve hours. These patients said it took a long time to understand their symptoms; they thought the symptoms would pass; they thought the symptoms were not serious enough to seek medical care; and they thought it would be difficult to seek medical care.
Conversely, patients who accurately identified their heart attack symptoms and sought medical help quickly had a wish to seek care, knew the symptoms were serious and where they should go to get help, and did not try to divert their thoughts away from the symptoms. Warning signs of a heart attack include moderate to severe discomfort such as pain in the chest, throat, neck, back, stomach or shoulders that lasts for more than 15 minutes.
It often comes with nausea, cold sweat, weakness, shortness of breath, or fear. Dr Nymark said this new signal could be discussed in outpatient appointments for those with cardiovascular risk factors and in cardiac rehabilitation programs for heart attack survivors. The study questionnaire could be used to identify patients who previously experienced an inability to act or poor symptom appraisal.