How To Survive A Major Heart Attack - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

How To Survive A Major Heart Attack

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Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, but your chance of surviving a heart attack in San Diego County is better than ever.

Every year in America, more than 250,000 people suffering from major heart attacks die on the way to the hospital, in part because they don't call 911. If you have a heart attack, grab the phone to call 911 - not your car keys.

"Absolutely whatever you do, don't yourself, and don't have a family member drive you to the hospital," Dr. Ehtisham Mahmud of UCSD Medical Center said.

That's because only 13 hospitals in the county are equipped to treat major heart attack victims, and paramedics know exactly where those hospitals are, which is critical.

"Because every minute that an artery is closed, heart muscle cells are dying," Dr. Mahmud said.

On average in San Diego County, once a paramedic delivers a heart attack victim to the hospital, doctors restore blood flow to the failing heart in 57 minutes. The old average was more than 130 minutes.

"I think it's a shocking success," Dr. Mahmud said.

So what changed? These days, paramedics are trained and equipped to diagnose heart attacks right from the ambulance.

"The closest hospital gets a phone call, so we at home, the physician and the team also start to drive in as the ambulance is driving in," Dr. Mahmud said.

Doctor Mahmud is part of a countywide board that created this life-saving system two years ago, and since that time your chance of surviving a major heart attack has risen to 96 percent compared to the national average of about 93 percent.

"I think it's one of the most exciting in the County of San Diego in many years," Dr. Mahmud said.

Doctor Mahmud says if you're having a heart attack, after you call 911 take an aspirin, because it can thin your blood and increase your chance of survival.

Before the countywide heart attack system was created in 2007, some patients could wait two or more hours in emergency rooms for medical care.

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