Last night a dear friend called seeking advice. Her friend who lives in Virginia was having chest pain. The following is my standard advice.
If you are having chest pain associated with any of the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Radiation of pain to neck, jaw, shoulder or arm
- Radiation of pain to your upper back
- Nausea or indigestion associated with any of the above
- Pain on exertion or after eating
- Sweating with pain
- A history of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol
- Family history of heart disease
- If you are a smoker
DIAL 911. DO NOT GET BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A CAR! DO NOT HAVE SOMEONE TAKE YOU TO THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE! THE LIFE YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN.
While the advice above pertains to both sexes, women are notorious for having atypical symptoms of heart disease and need to be even more cautious.
Most men and women underestimate (deny) chest pain! A denial or underestimation of chest pain can be lethal. Heart attacks damage the heart and cause dangerous rhythm disturbances. If treated early, much or all of the damage can be avoided. Driving with chest pain not only threatens your life, but also is a direct threat to the other motorists on the road. It is one thing to die behind the wheel of your car when it careens into a tree; it is quite something else when your car strikes a minivan loaded with children.
The paramedics are well trained professionals who can institute treatment the moment they see you. The ambulance is a mobile intensive care unit. Your family car is not. Your spouse cannot perform CPR while driving. Your spouse cannot dispense life threatening medicine.
The number one reason that people do not call the paramedics is people worry that they are overreacting and causing too much of a fuss. Dying causes a fuss. One of my favorite things to tell you is that all the tests are normal and you did not have a heart attack. One of the worse things to tell you or your family is, “If only we had gotten to you (him) sooner!
One last point. When your spouse shouts, “If you call the paramedics, I’ll never speak to you again,” call the paramedics. If you don’t call 911 and your spouse dies, they’ll never speak to you again!