Fast Help for Heart Attack

January 03, 2013

If you’re having a heart attack, every minute is precious. Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital has a system that gives patients the help they need faster than ever.

The Hospital equips paramedics with portable electrocardiogram (EKG) machines. An EKG can determine whether you’re having a heart attack, or why you’re having chest pain or shortness of breath.

When someone calls for an ambulance, paramedics can perform an EKG as soon as they reach the patient. The paramedics immediately fax the results to the smartphone of the cardiologist on call as well as to emergency room staff. The cardiology team can diagnose and prepare for the patient while he or she is en route to the Hospital.

Having an EKG done prior to arriving at the Hospital can reduce the time it takes to get treatment by 15 to 20 minutes, says Mustafa Hashem, M.D., FACC, FSCAI, medical director catheterization lab, cardiology, Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital. “We are saving a lot of time,” he says. The Hospital was one of the first in the southern Michigan area to offer prehospital EKGs.

Speedier results

Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital is also a leader when it comes to the length of door-to-balloon time. This is the amount of time it takes from the moment a patient arrives in the ER to the time the patient’s artery is unblocked. “Our average time is 60 minutes, which is well below the goal of 90 minutes set by the American College of Cardiology,” says Dr. Hashem, who is affiliated with Downriver Heart and Vascular Specialists. Having the prehospital EKG devices also speeds up the door-to-balloon time significantly, he says.

“The shorter the time, the better,” Dr. Hashem says. As a result, more lives are saved. “Time is muscle — the shorter the time it takes for you to open the arteries, the more heart muscle you will save.”

Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital is also a leader in performing complex heart procedures, says Dr. Hashem. In particular, Dr. Hashem has performed several hundred angioplasties in the past year. This is a procedure that widens narrow or obstructed arteries.

Preventing heart attacks

There are ways that you can lower your risk of experiencing a heart attack. Four risk factors for heart attack that you can change include:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

You can change these factors by either changing your lifestyle habits or taking medication. Dr. Hashem offers this advice to decrease your risk factors for a heart attack

  • LOWER YOUR BAD CHOLESTEROL, OR LDL, by avoiding foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as pasta, white bread and sweets. These foods can cause fat to be stored in your body.
  • EATING HEALTHY CAN IMPROVE YOUR GOOD CHOLESTEROL, or HDL, which is a benefit. It can also lower your blood pressure.
  • LOSE WEIGHT IF YOU’RE OVERWEIGHT. This can lower your blood pressure.
  • EXERCISING CAN LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE and improve your good cholesterol, or HDL.
  • DO NOT SMOKE. Smoking can increase your blood pressure.

Start healthy habits early

There are some risk factors for a heart attack that you can’t change, however, including your family history and your age.

Dr. Hashem says men older than 45 and women older than 55 are at a greater risk for heart attack. However, because many Americans do not exercise much or at all, he is seeing more and more younger patients — in their 30s and 40s — who are having heart attacks. “We didn’t see this 20 years ago,” he says.

It can take five to 10 years for your arteries to get blocked, which leads to heart disease. Studies show that overweight teenagers can start to build up fat in their arteries if they aren’t eating healthy.

Why me? Why now?

Dr. Hashem sees patients who are shocked that they had a heart attack because they were feeling great and didn’t seem to have any problems. “People can tend to ignore the simple things,” he says. “If someone has borderline high cholesterol or high blood pressure for a long time, this puts them at risk for a heart attack. If you make good changes in your diet and exercise and still have these problems, then you should take medication.”

Work with your doctor to regularly check for risk factors and address any problems. These practices will lower your risk for heart attack.\

Be smart to your heart

If you or a family member have a history of heart disease or need a second opinion about your cardiac care, the Chest Pain Clinic at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital is here to help. To make an appointment, call (734) 246-6901. Or, talk to your primary care physician.