American Heart Association Launches Campaign to Save More Lives from Heart Attacks



The American Heart Association wants North Dakota residents to call 9-1-1 at the first sign of a heart attack. 

“Too many lives in North Dakota are compromised or lost when people don’t call 9-1-1 when they’re having a heart attack,” says Dr. Jeffrey Sather, Emergency Medical Services Medical Director and Co-Chair of ND Mission: Lifeline Initiative.  

When someone experiences a heart attack or stroke and calls 9-1-1, that phone call activates the acute heart attack system and care starts immediately. 

In North Dakota, the American Heart Association Mission: Lifeline Initiative has equipped ambulances with 12-lead ECG equipment and trained EMS staff to perform an ECG on the scene and transmit that information to the Emergency Room.  EMS staffs are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. 

Over the past two years, EMS agencies, physicians, and health care systems across the state have been working together to establish statewide protocols and improve systems that more quickly identify and treat STEMIs (ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction), the deadliest type of heart attacks.

In North Dakota, two issues exist, the low numbers of acute heart attack patients that call 9-1-1 – only 47% of acute heart attack patients’ call 9-1-1 in ND compared to 67% nationally, and the time delay in seeking medical treatment from the onset of first sign/symptom.  In North Dakota the median time is 108 minutes compared to 50 minutes nationally. 

The public education campaign – “Your Life is on the Line – Dial 9-1-1”, seeks to educate individuals and communities on heart attack warning signs and activating the system by calling 9-1-1 within minutes of symptom onset.   

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense – the “movie heart attack,” where no one doubts what’s happening.  But most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort.  Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong.  Here are signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

  • 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. 
  • 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 with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort.  But women are more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. 

Today heart attack victims can benefit from new medications and treatments unavailable to patients in years past.  For example, clot-busting drugs and stop some heart attacks in progress, or angioplasty and open blocked arteries, reducing disability and saving lives.  But to be most effective, must be given/performed relatively quickly after heart attack symptoms first appear.  Don’t delay – get help right away – call 9-1-1! 

“An ideal system requires residents to recognize their heart attack symptoms and call 9-1-1 because their care starts the minute the EMS staffs are on the scene,” Dr. Sather says.  “Every minute counts.  Don’t get in the car and drive yourself.  Don’t ask a friend or your spouse to drive you.  The fastest route to appropriate care is to call 9-1-1.” 

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