If you experience a tinge of tightness in your chest or heart palpitations when exercising, it’s time to see your doctor and get checked for heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease causes one in every four deaths. It’s important to catch it early before it advances and causes a heart attack or stroke.
“Bloodwork to monitor your cholesterol and triglyceride levels is often the first step in checking for heart disease,” said Jeanna Warman, CRT, Cardiopulmonary Department Supervisor at Prowers Medical Center. “Your provider may also order an EKG to make sure your heart rate and rhythm are working correctly.”
Prowers Medical Center offers a variety of cardiac tests. Stress tests (including stress echocardiograms), defibrillator tests (ICD) and pacemaker monitoring are all offered at the hospital under the supervision of cardiologists who regularly see patients at the Specialty Clinic. Between the two of them—Dr. Gustafson and Dr. Gibson—a cardiologist is always available for appointments about twice a week.
“Sometimes people only notice chest pain when they are moving or active. In this case we could perform a stress test on the treadmill. Also, since we added stress echos a few years back, we can save people the long trip to Pueblo or Colorado Springs,” Warman added.
The hospital’s cardiology team and emergency department are ready to handle a heart attack. The hospital is always working hard to meet national standards for quick care with EKG monitoring. All emergency nurses are trained to provide tPA clot busting medicine. They are also skilled at preparing patients for transport via helicopter to a larger hospital in Colorado Springs or Pueblo where cardiologists are waiting to perform emergency surgeries.
When administered in a timely manner, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) saves lives and functionality. Blood clots are the main cause of heart attacks and strokes, so it’s crucial to break up and dissolve the clot as quickly as possible.
“Our emergency nurses are trained to provide tPA when a heart attack is in progress, and our emergency team is immediately online with a cardiologist so we can hit the ground running. The national standard to administer an EKG is 7 minutes once they come through the door. Multiple departments within the hospital work very hard to make sure that Prowers Medical Center is meeting those standards,” Warman said.
Warman stated that ER nurses are well trained to spot signs of a heart attack, even when they are out of the ordinary. This can be especially true for women.
“Women can have hidden symptoms that masque as something else, like fatigue. Or they get shortness of breath and think it’s respiratory. Sometimes, a heart attack simply causes a tightness in the shoulder or back,” she added.
Heart disease is much more common as we age, especially for those over age 55. If you are older and you have a family member, especially a sibling, who has heart disease or has had a heart attack, be vigilant about getting tested annually.
“In honor of American Heart Month, make changes to improve your family’s heart health. Be active every day, eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less processed, salty and fried foods. Healthy heart habits start at home,” Warman concluded.
Symptom Alert: Heart Attack
Take a minute to educate yourself on these symptoms of a heart attack, provided by the American Heart Association.
- Pain, pressure, fullness, squeezing in center of chest (typical symptoms experienced more by men than women)
- Pain, discomfort in other parts of the body: arms, back, neck, jaw, stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness
Cardiologists at Prowers Medical Center Specialty Clinic
Dr. George Gibson
Appointments first and third Thursdays of each month
Dr. George Gustafson
Appointments every Monday morning