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Transcript: "Know the Warning Signs"

BOB WELTNER: Before I had my heart attack, I never thought about having a heart attack-- I didn't believe that I would have a heart attack. I felt like I was invincible, I guess.

JOAN HAMILTON: So how could I have a heart attack? I wasn't fat, I exercised--I did everything right. We were thin!

BONNIE BROWN: I thought, also, that I was too young.

DR. BRUCE MacLEOD: We need to change the away we think about heart attacks. New treatments can stop a heart attack in its tracks, saving lives and preventing disability. But these treatments work best when they're started early-- ideally, within an hour of when symptoms begin. The benefits of early treatment are dramatic-- it can mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of heart attack victims are treated within that first hour. That's because people delay in seeking treatment. Why? Well, the truth is that most people who are having a heart attack don't realize what's happening to them. They don't know the warning signs. Now, you may think that you know what the symptoms of a heart attack are, but in reality, they may not be what you expect.

[ sound of someone in great distress ]

The Hollywood heart attack--the sudden, intense event where someone grabs his chest and falls over-- is actually not that typical. Sometimes it can happen that way. And if you're with someone when it does, yes, by all means, call 9-1-1. Who wouldn't? But the fact is that most heart attacks start slowly, with only mild pain or discomfort. You need to be aware of the warning signs that indicate you may be having a heart attack.

BOB WELTNER: I experienced some uncomfortable feelings up in my-- around my throat and my chest. It caused me to labor to breathe is what it did.

BONNIE BROWN: A lot of people say, "Like an elephant standing on your chest." I didn't have those type of pains.

BOB WELTNER: I had no idea at the time what that feeling was or what was happening.

JOAN HAMILTON: When she came in and I saw the color drain from her face and she's going "I'm okay; I'm okay;" I'm like, "You're not okay. I'm going to call 9-1-1. We'll let them tell you you're okay."

BONNIE BROWN: I said, "She's making too much of this! Why's she calling the ambulance? I was just having indigestion. I'm going to take this Alka-Seltzer and it'll go away." [ laughs ]

DR. BRUCE MacLEOD: Understanding the heart attack warning signs isn't only important for your own health. Very often, someone other than the person having the heart attack is the one who needs to take quick action. The patient may want to wait. But if you think your spouse or friend or co-worker is experiencing heart attack symptoms, you can save a life by calling 9-1-1 and getting them to the hospital as quickly as possible. Some signs that you may be having a heart attack include chest discomfort, discomfort in the arms, back, neck, or even jaw, shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling sick to your stomach, weakness, dizziness, or lightheadedness. If you experience these warning signs, you need to find out what's happening. Call 9-1-1 right away. Don't wait more than a few minutes--five minutes at the most. While that may sound extreme, research shows that getting to a hospital quickly is the best way to survive a heart attack. If you call 9-1-1, treatment can begin as soon as the ambulance gets to you.

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