By: Hannah Paczkowski
Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. and one of the leading causes of death in Nebraska.
Tuesday, the American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate, announced a $5.3 million initiative to help get care to heart attack patients quicker, especially in rural areas.
"I think this saves lives. We're not worried about minor heart attacks, we're concerned about major heart attacks that can take lives away," Cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Deepak Gangahar said.
If someone is suffering from a major heart attack, time is muscle.
"Every minute you waste, a heart muscle is lost, once the heart muscle is lost it will never come back," Gangahar said.
With this campaign, patients can be diagnosed on sight. Rescue crews use a 12-lead ECG which will recognize on sight whether or not the patient is having a major heart attack. Then, crews can transmit that information to a cardiologist and the patient will be sent to a cath lab.
"I think it's a great opportunity for these volunteer squads as well as the ALS and BLS squads across the state," nurse Tom Appleget said.
However, system changes, education and providing new monitors is only half the battle. Health experts say the best way to fight this disease is through prevention and that can start with the patient changing their lifestyle.
"Mothers need to teach good eating habits to kids, parents should practice what they tell the kids," Gangahar said.
The grant will help provide more than 30 12-lead ECG machines throughout the state. Most of the money came from a charitable trust.