Friday, April 15, 2011

Am I Having a Heart Attack?

If you Googled this article because you think you're having a heart attack — stop. Call 911. Then chew an aspirin. Spending precious minutes searching for information about heart attack symptoms as you experience them is not wise, doctors say, because "time is heart muscle."

One of the symptoms for a heart attack in women is pain in the shoulder blades. — "If you think you're having a heart attack, that's not the time to try and figure out whether you're right," says Gordon Tomaselli, M.D., president-elect of the American Heart Association, who adds he has patients who have done exactly that.

And yet, among the most commonly searched subjects online is "heart attack signs," according to the search engine Google. In fact, the number of searches for that term has increased by a whopping 90 percent in the last five years or so, according a company spokesperson. Searches for "Am I having a heart attack?" alone have risen by more than 35 percent since 2008, the company says.

One reason people are searching online for emergency information is that it's not always easy to tell whether you're having a heart attack — even doctors have a tough time knowing without tests. If you suspect you're having a heart attack, call for an ambulance immediately. And don't be embarrassed if it turns out you're not.

"It's not always straightforward," says Tomaselli. "If you develop the classic symptoms — pressing chest pain, sweating, nausea — then you're pretty clear that there's a big problem that needs to be dealt with quickly." But, he says, many people, especially women, may develop completely different symptoms when experiencing a heart attack.
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