If life were like the movies, everyone having a heart attack would clutch their hand over their heart and complain of the proverbial crushing pain. Unfortunately, sometimes the symptoms of a heart attack can be rather subtle. There is even the rarely talked about “silent heart attack”. So how do your employees know when to seek medical attention? With Continuwell, trained registered nurses and board certified doctors are at your fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This medical advice from Continuwell medical professionals can be the difference between life and death, if caught in time.
Women, in particular, frequently have less common symptoms that can be indicative of a heart attack. Symptoms such as a squeezing or fullness anywhere in the chest, not just on the left side. Sometimes the pain is not focused on the chest at all, rather it can be a pain in the arms, back, neck, or jaw. This pain can wake one from a sound sleep.
Take for example Jean, a 37 year old female with no previous history of heart disease. She woke from sleep at 3AM with what she thought was heartburn, even though she hadn’t eaten anything that may have caused it the evening before. She took antacids and tried to go back to sleep, only to experience a sharp pain between her shoulder blades followed by extreme nausea. The next thing she remembers is waking up in the Emergency Room, to be told she would need surgery to open her 100% blocked artery. Jean’s case is one of the more extreme, but sadly is not unusual. Heart attack symptoms do not manifest the same in every patient, which is why access to health care at all hours can make a difference. If Jean had access to the Continuwell services, she would have been able to speak to a nurse and receive a diagnosis or instructions for further care, no matter how minor her symptoms appeared.
Other conditions such as heartburn, the flu or stomach ulcers can mimic heart attacks. Unusual sweating and fatigue are other symptoms that often go untreated. This happened to Sarah, a 45 year old female in good health. She was under a lot of stress at work and thought the burning pain in her stomach and chest was heartburn. She was more tired than usual and thought she was going through menopause because she seemed to sweat more than she used too. She treated her symptoms at home for several days before calling her Continuwell nurse. After following the doctor-written guidelines, the Continuwell nurse told Sarah to go to her physician, who immediately did an EKG which showed classic changes associated with a Myocardial Infarction or Heart Attack.
Sarah and Jean are not the only ones to misdiagnose themselves, it happens often. Continuwell’s mobile app feature makes it easy to talk to nurses in real time, instead of entering the black hole that is internet-based medical diagnosis. Our nurses and doctors are available day or night, regardless of holidays, to ensure that your health is a priority. With this high level of availability, Continuwell nurses are able to instantly assess members’ symptoms for free, instead of spending the time and money to be seen and treated at a medical facility. Not everyone with these symptoms is experiencing a heart attack, but any unexplained symptoms should be evaluated by a physician. It is important that once these symptoms are experienced, employees should go and seek medical attention immediately, or contact our Continuwell nurses.
So why do people delay seeking medical attention with the above symptoms? We all feel stressed out or tired at times and can often explain away these symptoms. We give excuses like “I was working hard in the yard today”, or “I haven’t been sleeping well due to work stress”, or “I ate too late last night and caused heartburn”. No one wants to think that the symptoms they are having could be a life altering heart condition that frequently needs surgery. Denial is a common first reaction. It is also a dangerous first reaction. Even if you are unsure that your symptoms may not be indicative of anything serious, it is best to err on the side of caution.
Our triage nurses are highly trained and quick thinking, which allows them to come up with the right plan of treatment at the right time, to assure that the caller has the best outcome. Our nurses are able to connect the dots, linking symptoms to give you the most accurate advice. Continuwell nurses are able to recognize symptoms associated with heart attacks and develop a treatment plan, even if it includes seeing a doctor immediately. Our nurses are calm, compassionate, and are available at all times to discuss ANY health concerns, before drastic surgery is required. It is a Continuwell nurse’s job to use her protocols, her critical thinking skills, and her nursing knowledge to ask the right questions in order to make an educated decision about the safest disposition at that time for her patient.
While not all heart attacks can be entirely prevented, there are certain lifestyle changes that can be done to lower the risk. February is American Heart Month and Continuwell’s previous blog post focuses on 6 Tips for a Healthy Heart, which can lower the risk for heart disease and heart attacks. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned or feel something may be wrong, don’t hesitate to call our nurses! They are here for you and your heart.