February is known as the month of love, but it’s also National Heart Month. About every 40 seconds, an American will have a heart attack, that’s according to the American Heart Association. They also say that around 720,000 Americans will have a heart attack this year, and there will be 335,000 recurrent attacks. Doctor Tom Swierkosz, a cardiologist at Comanche County Memorial Hospital, says said knowing the symptoms and what to do is important.

“I think they should be aware of it every month of the year, but heart month is the time that we talk about it a little more and remind the patients about the symptoms that should bring them to the emergency room,” Dr. Swierkosz said.

He said the main symptoms that most patients have is chest pain.

“The problem with how to distinguish chest pain caused by heart attacks and chest pain caused by stomach ulcers or heartburn coming from acid reflux problems or maybe some lung disease,” Dr. Swierkosz said.

Not only does the person having chest pain not know what it is at first, but Doctor Swierkosz said doctors and nurses also face that problem.

He said people should start worrying if the pain doesn’t go away within a few minutes. Dr. Swierkosz said one type of heart attack that they might be having is a STEMI. He said that type doesn’t happen often, but you don’t want to miss it.

“Every minute counts,” he said. “Every minute of delay can mean more damage to the heart muscle, more heart muscle turning into a scar and effectively dying, not being able to perform, pump blood anymore.”

If a heart attack happens, he said he tries to perform a procedure to see how well the heart is working.

“If we find a blockage that can be remedied with a balloon and stent, we offer this to our patients and whether the artery is completely blocked or subtly occluded we place a balloon to open it up and then a stint which is a metal mesh cube that goes into the coronary artery and opens up and keep the artery open,” Dr. Swierkosz said.

Because of how they take care of hearts, Comanche County Memorial Hospital recently became the first hospital in the state to become a Primary Heart Attack Center by Joint Commission and the American Heart Association.

“This is just a final step in recognition of something that has been present here for years,” he said. “This kind of service has been provided to the community and the surrounding areas for many, many years now.”

Dr. Swierkosz said he hopes if someone ever has chest pain lasting more than a minute or so, they’ll take it seriously and go to the emergency room.