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What to do When a Heart Attack Hits


What to do when having heart attackWith more than three-quarters of all heart attacks occurring at home, having an emergency plan in place as well as some basic first aid knowledge can make the difference between life and death.

The symptoms of chest pain and discomfort can be indicative of many different ailments, ranging from fairly harmless heartburn to a full-blown heart attack. However, unless you happen to be a cardiology professional, it is unlikely that you will be able to diagnose the cause of chest pain on the spot. Because of this, it is essential that all symptoms, even seemingly insignificant ones, are taken seriously and treated immediately.

If you or a loved one have a known heart condition:

  • Establish an emergency plan with a cardiologist that includes recommended medications (such as aspirin or nitroglycerin) to take while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
  • If necessary, wear a medical ID bracelet so hospital doctors can quickly identify any known allergies or medical issues you may have.

What to do if you are having a heart attack:

  • Immediately call 911. Tell the dispatcher that you are experiencing a heart attack and describe specific symptoms. Receiving treatment within one hour of initial symptoms is key to ensuring a full recovery.
  • Do not drive. Remain where you are and wait for an ambulance to arrive. Getting in a car while experiencing symptoms of a heart attack can put yourself and others in greater danger should you pass out on the road.
  • Chew one full-strength aspirin. If taken at the first sign of symptoms, aspirin can prevent further arterial blockage by inhibiting platelets in your bloodstream. Chewing or crushing one aspirin and taking it with water helps get the life-saving medicine into your blood faster than swallowing the tablet whole.

What to do if someone you are with is having a heart attack:

  • Call 911 and stay with the person. Do not leave a person who is experiencing a heart attack. If they begin having new or worsened symptoms, you can relay this information to the 911 dispatcher who can update the emergency responders on their way to the scene.
  • Insist that the person waits for an ambulance. Arriving at a hospital in an ambulance ensures direct access to caregivers, while driving someone to the Emergency Room general can lead to lines and paperwork before they receive help.
  • If the person suddenly collapses, stops breathing or becomes unresponsive, begin giving CPR. A 911 dispatcher will be able to walk you through the basic steps needed to keep blood flowing until first responders arrive. Make sure you are always ready to give assistance in emergencies by becoming CPR certified through the American Heart Association.
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