DR. BRUCE MacLEOD: Heart disease is the number one killer of both women and men in this country. This year, more than a million Americans will have a heart attack and nearly 500,000 of them will die. But it doesn't have to be this way.
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As most people who have had a heart attack can tell you, it's really not like the movies. Every story is unique.
ANNOUNCER: Bob Weltner was 60 years old and on vacation with his wife, Jean, when he experienced heart attack warning signs and overlooked them.
BOB WELTNER: So I sat down and rested for a while and it went away. I walked a few more blocks and it started again and it went away again. My wife got upset, quite naturally.
JEAN WELTNER: When he said it the third time, I-- fear set in. It was, like, "Oh, my Lord." I said, "What is it? Do you have any pain?" He said, "No." I said, "Do you have any numbness?" He said, "No." And I said, "Bob, let me take you to the hospital." And he says, "No, I'll be all right."
BOB WELTNER: I'm the type that I don't-- never ran to the doctor just because I had a little pain. I had-- something had to be wrong and I didn't think anything was wrong. I didn't think anything was seriously wrong with myself at the time.
DR. BRUCE MacLEOD: Patients often tell me that they delayed in calling 9-1-1 because they weren't sure what was going wrong or they were afraid it was a false alarm or they felt embarrassed about causing a fuss or they didn't want to upset their families. But this is your life we're talking about. If you feel that something's wrong, you owe it to yourself and your family to get it checked out.
ANNOUNCER: Four days later, Bob was at work when his symptoms returned-- more intense, this time. A colleague called 9-1-1 and the ambulance rushed him to the hospital.
BOB WELTNER: I don't remember much of anything. And it's at this point at time, they claim-- they tell me-- that I went into complete cardiac arrest. And I was in that complete cardiac arrest for 20 minutes.
JEAN WELTNER: [ tearfully ] When the hospital called, they right on the phone told me, "Your husband's in Emergency Room at Saint [inaudible] Hospital and he's having a heart attack."
BOB WELTNER: My heart stopped and in theory, I guess I was dead. But through the miracles of medical science, they managed to revive me and bring me back to life.
DR. BRUCE MacLEOD: Let's talk about what's actually happening in our bodies when someone is having heart attack. We all know that the heart is the muscle that's responsible for pumping blood to every part of our body. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is cut off or reduced, oftentimes by a blood clot in one of the arteries that feeds the heart. What happens when we have a heart attack is that the heart muscle gets damaged from the lack of adequate blood supply. The longer it takes to treat a patient having a heart attack, the more severe the damage to the heart will be. And damage to the heart is permanent. The treatment for a heart attack has changed a lot over the years. Two decades ago, there wasn't much we could do to stop a heart attack. Today there are drugs called thrombolytics, or clot-busters, that can quickly break up a clot in the heart's artery. There's also angioplasty, where a balloon is inserted into the artery and inflated to restore blood flow. These artery-opening treatments need to be administered, ideally, within one hour of the beginning of heart attack symptoms. The sooner these treatments are given, the more heart muscle can be saved and the better your chances of surviving and resuming a normal life.