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For personal reasons I have a strong interest in the timely diagnosis and treatment of heart attacks. There is only a relatively short window of time in which a life can be saved or significant heart damage avoided. Sometimes it seems that medical providers in Florida are less sensitive to heart attacks than the patients who seek their professional help. Diagnostic effort by a professional who thinks first of everything but a heart attack is almost pointless. Time is of the essence. The most deadly potential diagnosis should be at the top of the list.

Misdiagnosing Heart Attacks

After Beatrice Vance died of an undiagnosed heart attack in the waiting room of her local emergency department this past summer, the coroner’s jury ruled her death a homicide. But hers was not an isolated case. USA Today has an in-depth article featuring James Pettry who died of a heart attack the day after being sent home from the emergency room.

Dr. Joseph Ornato, professor and chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, advises patients and those who are involved in their care to “push doctors who are not listening.” But you won’t know to push unless you understand what to look for and what to expect.

A partial list of Heart Attack Symptoms and Warning Signs:

*Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

*Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

*Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.

*Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness

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