“It's very important as a cardiologist that I don't work in a silo, and that I know what other diseases patients are being treated for.” That’s why Sundlof and her team at Lehigh Valley Heart Institute work collaboratively so they can be aware of each patient’s individual health history.
She believes the strongest tool to heart attack prevention is education. “It's very important for women to know what their traditional as well as non-traditional risk factors may be,” she says. “Women tend to be the medical CEOs of the family – for their spouses, their parents and for their children. And so, if they know what heart health looks like, they're more likely to lead their family in a healthier direction.”
Time is of the essence
Unfortunately, women often delay coming into the hospital when experiencing symptoms. “We know that women wait approximately 54 hours before seeking medical attention, whereas men wait about 16 hours. Women also are much more likely to disregard their symptoms. They’ll say, ‘I'm anxious’, or ‘I've had a lot on my plate’, or ‘I'm worried about a lot of things.’ Women tend to try to minimize what they're feeling and what they think is going on,” Sundlof says.
One of the most important things Combs wants both men and women to understand is that if your symptoms are out of the ordinary, and especially if they are persistent for more than 15 minutes – or if you are experiencing any discomfort in the chest area, you should seek medical treatment as quickly as possible. “The sooner you can get a diagnosis, the earlier it's treated, the better the outcome. Some of the worst cases are women who will sit at home and suffer for 12 to 24 hours, or even days. And then they'll end up with severe heart failure and get really sick,” he says.
If you think that you know someone is having a heart attack or stroke, call 911.
Although your first reaction may be to drive a patient with symptoms of a heart attack or stroke to the hospital yourself, it’s best to call 911 first. Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel are able to provide treatment on the way to the hospital and are trained to revive a person if he or she is experiencing heart failure. Their reaction time can help a patient up to an hour sooner than being driven to the hospital. Do not wait more than five minutes after noticing these symptoms to make the call.
Even if you’re not sure if someone is experiencing a heart attack, it’s always best to take the necessary precautions. Minutes matter when it comes to a heart emergency, so it is important to act fast.