Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Chest Pain

Chest pain is the top symptom of a heart attack. If you’re having a heart attack, every minute you wait to seek help increases your risk of permanent heart muscle damage and death. Yet half of all people with chest pain delay going to the hospital for at least four hours.

Laura Fernandes, MD, FACC, and the team at Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute devote extensive time to determining the cause of chest pain. We offer comprehensive care that helps you prevent a heart attack. But if your chest pain is due to a heart attack, your life depends on getting the intensive treatment available at a hospital. 

That brings us to our top-four reasons why you should never ignore chest pain.

1. You waste precious time

You don’t have time to waste when your chest pain is caused by a heart attack. The longer it takes to get medical attention, the more likely you are to sustain significant heart damage or suffer enough damage to die.

There are different types of heart attacks, and you can’t possibly know what type you’re having. The most severe type, called STEMI, occurs when a coronary artery is completely blocked by a blood clot or fatty plaque.

STEMI accounts for one out of every four heart attacks. One-third of STEMI patients don’t get the treatment they need to survive. Even more fail to get treatment within 90 minutes.

People hesitate to seek help for many reasons. If you’re tempted to take a wait-and-see approach to chest pain, remember that you may be putting your life on the line.

2. You may drive yourself to the hospital

Ignoring chest pain or thinking it’s not really serious often leads to a risky behavior: driving yourself to the hospital. If you’re not near a phone or other people, then you may not have a choice. Otherwise, you should never drive while having a heart attack.

If you’re having a heart attack, you may get dizzy or lose consciousness while driving. Then you could end up in an accident that may hurt you and other people.

Another reason not to drive is that it wastes more time. If you call 9-1-1 you get lifesaving medical care before you get to the hospital. Arriving by ambulance also cuts down on your wait time at the hospital.

And finally, if you drive yourself, you may not go to the best hospital. Most people naturally head to the nearest hospital, but the hospital that’s equipped to provide advanced cardiac care may be a little further down the road.

3. You won’t take quick steps to reduce heart damage

After you dial 9-1-1, you can take two important steps while waiting for an ambulance -- steps you won’t take if you choose to ignore chest pain. 

If you have uncoated aspirin on hand, chewing and swallowing 325 milligrams (one regular tablet or four 80-milligram baby aspirins) thins your blood and helps limit the damage to your heart.

Then you should unlock your door so the paramedics can get inside. If you feel up to it, call someone so they know you’re in trouble and stay on the phone with them until the paramedics arrive.

4. You miss out on treatment to prevent a heart attack

Chest pain doesn’t always mean you have a heart problem. Even if you do, the pain may go away. Then you may be tempted to write it off as indigestion and go about your daily life as if you don’t have a worry in the world.

Ignoring chest pain means you won’t schedule an appointment so we can determine the reason for your chest pain. The most common heart problems diagnosed in people with chest pain — coronary artery disease, heart arrhythmias, and heart failure — get progressively worse without treatment.

Diagnosing the problem allows you to start treatment that will improve your health, help prevent a heart attack, and in some cases, repair the problem with a minimally invasive procedure.

Whether your chest pain is due to cardiovascular disease, a lung condition, musculoskeletal injury, or even a gastrointestinal problem, it’s always a red flag signaling a problem.

If you have any questions about your heart health or chest pain, don’t wait to call Woodlands Heart and Vascular Institute in The Woodlands, Texas. Or you can schedule an appointment through online our booking tool here on the website. 

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