CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The American Heart Association of West Virginia is closing out a three-year initiative to improve outcomes of heart attacks across the state.

The Mission: Lifeline program was developed to deliver the best possible care to those suffering high-risk time-sensitive emergencies including heart attacks, strokes and cardiac arrest.

“The goal is to bring them to hospitals as soon as possible under 90 minutes once they call 911,” said Ganpat Thakker, physician and chair of Mission: Lifeline.

The initiative calls on hospital administration, EMTs/Fire rescue squads and emergency room staff across the state to work together to improve cardiac care, particularly the system of STEMI (ST elevated myocardial infarction) care.

Cynthia Keely, director of Mission: Lifeline, said it can be difficult for an ambulance to get around in West Virginia, at times, due to the rural nature.

“We know the drive time does make a big difference, but if you have things ready on the inside at a hospital when that patient hits the door after they’ve called 911 and EMS has driven them there things just hopefully run smoothly,” Keely said.

Last week, AHA representatives met with West Virginia physicians for its annual Mission: Lifeline meeting at the Charleston Marriott.

Keely was one of the featured speakers who talked about the importance of saving lives.

“We just want people to be healthy and we’re trying to at least do our part on making sure that care is delivered professionally and quickly for those that do need it,” she said.

Since the initiative started in 2014, Thakker said 73 percent of West Virginians have called 911 for cardiac-related emergencies.

“Our goal is to increase to nearly 100 percent,” he said. “We have gone up to close to 73 percent roughly from 27 percent three years ago, so that’s a significant improvement.”

Thakker said every minute counts during a heart attack.

“When the artery gets blocked and the heart doesn’t get blood supply, the heart muscle starts dying. Every minute you rest, you’re losing one gram,” he explained.

That’s why calling 911 within 90 minutes after the heart attack is key, Keely said.

“They can make that call direct, that way you don’t have to stop in the emergency department if you drove yourself to the hospital. We don’t want you to do that especially if it’s a heart-related issue,” she said.

The American Heart Association recommends monitoring your blood pressure, visiting a doctor annually, being more active, eating clean and drinking plenty of water to maintain a healthy heart.

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