If you start researching the statistics for heart attack survival a pattern quickly evolves.  The majority of people who do not survive their first heart attack (or any heart attack after their first) are typically a long distance from a medical center equipped with the proper cardiac emergency facilities or they've waited too long to seek help.

An estimated 735,000 people will experience a heart attack in the US this year.  Many of these heart attacks (where the heart's ability to function is greatly diminished) will lead to cardiac arrest - where the heart completely stops.  Only 6% of the people who experience cardiac arrest survive if they are outside of a hospital when their heart stops.  In total, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) estimates that over 610,000 people die from heart disease in the US each year which is roughly 1 in 4 deaths.

More than a quarter of a million people each year experience a severe heart attack caused by a complete blockage of the blood flow to the heart (called an ST elevation myocardial infarction or STEMI). It is critical to restore blood flow to the heart as quickly as possible by opening the blocked vessel using surgery or intravenous medication - otherwise the patient WILL die.

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology have presented research and have established care guidelines which state that heart attack (STEMI) patients who seek treatment and have a "DOOR-TO-BALLOON" time of under 90 minutes have a much greater chance at survival and recovery. 
*In my own case - it was 37 minutes from the time my heart attack started in full until I was in the Cardiac Cath Lab being treated.  This is a Door-to-Balloon time of 37 minutes.  And a large part of my recovery can be attributed to the outstanding care I received. 

Even though I started having symptoms at 3am it wasn't until around 9:45am (while I was in transit to a cardiologists office) when the symptoms came back and never eased off.  This was when my STEMI heart attack started.  I came into the emergency room of the hospital at approximately 10:05am - prime time to be treated for a heart attack according to the AHA.
Early Action is Important for Heart Attack for statistics have shown that the faster a heart attack patient can get treatment the greater their chances for survival.  Many heart attack victims wait hours before seeking help. Research from the American Heart Association shows that heart attack patients who arrive at the hospital at nighttime, during the weekend or on a holiday have a 13% increased risk of dying, compared with patients who arrive during regular hours.
In a STEMI heart attack there is sudden rupture of an unstable part of the wall in a heart artery. This leads to a build up of clot in an attempt to heal it however this clot formation results in total blockage of the artery. This total blockage leads to loss of blood supply to the heart beyond that point. The heart muscle stops working within minutes and soon dies unless the blockage can be cleared and the artery can be opened back up. For this reason every minute from the onset of a heart attack is absolutely critical. Often the patient doesnít make it to hospital due to sudden death. For those who put off seeking medical attention too long or for those in whom the heart attack isnít treated a STEMI heart attack is 100% fatal. 

For those who do seek medical attention and survive the initial event the damaged or dead heart tissue cannot be regenerated and they are left with a damaged heart; healthy, normally functioning heart tissue is replaced by a non beating scar.  If enough heart tissue is damaged and the resulting scar is large enough - the patient is unable to engage in many simple activities because they now live with a damaged, compromised heart. 

CAD is the leading cause of early disability in the United States and is estimated to cost $316 billion in heath care and lost productivity (these are older numbers for 2011 provided by the Million Hearts Project - an Official Department of Health and Human Services)
It was hard for me to accept that "yes - I am having a heart attack".  It wasn't until I had been in the hospital a couple of days following the emergency cath procedure that had saved my life that I was able to say, "OK... wow... that was totally unexpected but it really did happen."

Do not let you own inability to believe or accept that this may be happening to you prevent you from seeking emergency treatment immediately. 

I know my body well enough that heart attack or not - the pain I had experienced in the middle of the night was not natural or something I should ignore.  It was too intense to be anything but serious.  I made a phone call to a cardiologist the moment his office opened and I was on my way to see him when my heart attack (no mistaking it this time) hit me.  Luckily his office is across the street from the regional cardiac care center in the area. 

So many things that conspired to save my life so I can be here sharing this with you were born of decisions I deliberately made.  They were not accidents and it wasn't luck.  I do feel so very lucky/fortunate to be here.  Life is beautiful and I am far from ready to leave. 

Do not let pride, ego, or anything else stop you from dialing 9-1-1 and telling emergency services you are having a heart attack and need an ambulance.  Heart attacks do not "go away" and they do not "get better on their own."  In many cases waiting an hour can mean the difference between life and death.  Fortunately for me my heart woke me up with some warnings that something bad was about to happen and I listened. 

Don't make the mistake of not listening to your own heart. 
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