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August 14, 2007 > Is It a Heart Attack - or Angina?

Is It a Heart Attack - or Angina?

You just finished raking the yard on a hot afternoon when you feel an uncomfortable pressure and squeezing pain in your chest, shortness of breath and light-headedness. You're thinking, "This can't be a heart attack. In the movies, heart attack victims always clutch their chests and fall over dead. I must have just over-exerted myself."

he truth of the matter, though, is that most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort in the chest or in other areas of the upper body such as the arms, back, neck jaw or stomach. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness. Further complicating the scenario is the fact that these symptoms can also be caused by a condition called "angina," when the heart doesn't get enough blood and oxygen.

Dr. William F. Nicholson, a cardiologist at Washington Hospital will discuss the signs and symptoms associated with chest pain (angina) and heart attack at a free Health and Wellness seminar on Tuesday, August 21, from 6 to 7 p.m. The seminar will be held in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, Rooms A & B in the Washington West Building located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. For more information about the seminar, or to register to attend, please call (800) 963-7070.

"The most important message I want to people to take away from this seminar is that if they or someone they know is having chest pain for more than a few minutes, they need to seek out immediate medical attention," says Dr. Nicholson.

During the presentation, Dr. Nicholson will also explain the importance of controlling risk factors and seeking urgent medical treatment when experiencing signs of angina or heart attack.

According to the American Heart Association, heart attacks and angina are common in the United States: More than six million Americans have angina, and approximately 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack each year, with nearly half of those proving fatal.

While heart attacks and angina affect both men and women, some people are more at risk for these conditions. Obviously you cannot control risk factors such as age or a family history of heart disease, but there are factors that can be controlled, including:
* High blood pressure
* High cholesterol
* Overweight and obesity
* Physical inactivity
* Diabetes
* Smoking

"If someone thinks they are having a heart attack, their immediate reflex should be to call 9-1-1," adds Dr. Nicholson. "It's very important that people are promptly evaluated. Raising this type of awareness can save lives."

If you or someone you are with is having chest discomfort that may be a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital. Here in Alameda County, a new aspect of the emergency response system for heart attack has been initiated.

12 - Lead EKG can save lives

The 12-Lead electrocardiogram (EKG) is a machine that records the electrical impulses that stimulate the heart to contract. The 12-Lead EKG enables paramedics to make a consistent heart attack diagnosis in the field and notify the receiving hospital which speeds up treatment and can lead to better outcomes for the patient.

Alameda County has the largest 12-Lead EKG paramedic program in California and Washington Hospital is a designated facility that has the most comprehensive and advanced heart program in the area. (See information below about the 12-Lead EKG television program currently airing on InHealth, a Washington Hospital Channel.)

To register for the upcoming seminar, please call (800) 963-7070. For more information about the upcoming seminar or other classes offered at Washington Hospital, visit, click on "For Our Community" and select "Health Classes & Support Groups" from the drop-down menu.

The original InHealth program, Voices InHealth: 12-Lead EKG will continue to air periodically on InHealth, A Washington Hospital Channel. InHealth, Channel 78, is available to Comcast subscribers in Newark, Union City and Fremont. The InHealth program schedule is published weekly in this section of the Tri-City Voice newspaper and posted on Washington Hospital's Web site at

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