FYI from the NHLBI Index

December 2001: Vol. 2, Issue 3
Feature Articles

Message from the Director

I am pleased to note that we are moving forward with our third annual public interest organization meeting. I hope that all of your groups will be represented since the meeting cannot be a success without you. As before, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Advisory Council members will be invited to the meeting, and everyone is welcome at the Council's public session the following day. However, space is limited in the Council room; be sure to reserve your seat.

I recently attended the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA), where NHLBI researchers announced some very exciting research results. One of them concerned an implantable heart pump called a left ventricular assist device. It was shown to significantly extend and improve the lives of terminally ill patients with end-stage heart failure. Although the device caused serious complications for some patients, we believe that we are one step closer to providing a new treatment option to the thousands of patients for whom a poor quality of life is otherwise certain.

Heart failure is closely associated with the major modifiable risk factors for coronary heart disease: smoking, high cholesterol levels and blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. To help you take care of your heart, we're working with the AHA to bring you American Heart Month in February. Check your local news sources to learn about AHA-sponsored programs in your area to prevent cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Sincerely yours,
Claude Lenfant, M.D.
Modified 12/1/01
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Act in Time to Heart Attack Signs

Act in Time to Heart Attack Signs

Each year, about 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack. And, most make the potentially fatal mistake of waiting too long before seeking medical help. Fast action is your best weapon against a heart attack because clot-busting drugs and other treatments can stop a heart attack in its tracks. The sooner the treatments are started, the more good they will do - and the greater the chances are for survival and full recovery. To be most effective, they should be given within one hour of the start of heart attack symptoms.

Granted, it's not always easy to tell if someone is having a heart attack. Many people think a heart attack is sudden and intense, like a "movie" heart attack where a man clutches his chest and falls over. The truth is that heart attacks can occur in men or women, and many start slowly as mild pain or discomfort. You may not be sure what's wrong, and your symptoms may come and go. Even if you've already had one heart attack, you may not recognize symptoms of another because they may be entirely different. Therefore, it's vital that you learn the warning signs of a heart attack. They are:

  • Chest discomfort (e.g., pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain) in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Shortness of breath, which often occurs at the same time as, but can occur before, chest discomfort.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body (e.g., in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach).
  • Other symptoms such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

When in doubt, check it out! Call 9-1-1 within a few minutes - five, at most! An ambulance is the best way to get to the hospital because:

  • Emergency medical service (EMS) personnel can begin treatment even before you get to a hospital.
  • The heart may stop beating during a heart attack. EMS personnel have equipment to restart it.
  • Heart attack patients who arrive by ambulance tend to receive faster treatment when they reach a hospital.

To learn more about heart attacks, including who's at risk, what tests can diagnose a heart attack, what medications are prescribed for heart disease, and answers to other frequently asked questions, visit the Act in Time to Heart Attack Signs Web site. And, work with your doctor to create a "heart attack survival plan" so that you know how to "act in time to heart attack signs."

Modified 12/1/01
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Media Tips to Get Your Message Heard

What kinds of stories are most likely to get published? How can you get coverage in newspapers or on radio or television? How do you approach the media? Do you need to be doing more to get your message out? To answer these questions, the NHLBI Office of Prevention, Education, and Control put together the following suggestions.

Identify News
Good news story are timely, important to a large number of people, and contain human interest components and interesting facts. They usually:
  • educate the audience about a disorder,
  • report an event or activity, or
  • promote actions the audience can take.
Develop a Media Plan
  • Identify goals. Determine what you want people to know.
  • Identify the audiences you want to reach and the media they use.
  • Develop appropriate messages for each target audience, outlining actions they should take and why.
  • Compile a media list, using your public library's media directory.
  • Produce materials for a press kit. Write a media advisory (one page describing the event and inviting the media) and a press release (a mini news story). Include how the issue affects the local community.
  • Construct a timetable of outreach events and activities. Be mindful of local media deadlines.
  • Add an evaluation component so you can determine whether you have been successful.
Get to Know Your Media Environment
  • Become familiar with local news media. Pay specific attention to reporters who have covered stories related to health issues. Don't overlook sports newsletters, publications for seniors and for minority groups, and radio and television public affairs shows.
  • Call local media outlets and ask who covers health. Find out who does local cable programming and contact their news and public affairs programs.
  • Contact local health reporters. Tell them what you're doing and ask if they are interested in working with you on a local story. Build a relationship; become a trusted resource. Work with them to develop a feature story. Invite reporters to cover events.
  • List events in community calendars in local media.
  • Identify a local specialist willing to talk to the media. Place the spokesperson on talk shows.
Evaluate Your Activities
  • Establish baseline measurements.
  • Determine whether the audiences were reached and objectives were achieved.
Communicating your message also will be a topic at the upcoming Public Interest Organization meeting. Make sure your group is represented.

Please send us your feedback, comments, and questions by using the appropriate link on the page, Contact the NHLBI.

Note to users of screen readers and other assistive technologies: please report your problems here.

Modified 12/1/01
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