911 Basics: Responding to a Heart Attack
Heart disease is the leading killer in the United States. Knowing the warning signs of a heart attack and how to respond could save a life.
The following guidelines can help you make the right decisions and take the right steps when seconds count.
Heart attack symptoms
The following may be symptoms of a heart attack. Not all of these warning signs occur in every attack. Seek immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms occur:
Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing, or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck, back, and arms.
Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath.
Feeling very anxious or very tired.
Take the following emergency actions ahead of time if you or a family member has a heart condition or is at risk of a heart attack:
Know which hospitals in your area provide 24-hour emergency heart care. Tell family and friends where they are.
Keep emergency rescue phone numbers near your phone or save them on your cell phone.
Tell family and friends to call 911 or your local number for emergencies if chest pain lasts more than a few minutes.
There are other causes of chest pain besides a heart attack. However, you should get medical help if you or someone else have the heart attack symptoms described above.
What to do
If you suspect someone is having a heart attack:
Call 911 or your local number for emergencies. Tell the person who answers where you are and that someone is having a heart attack. Don't hang up until you're told to do so.
You should not drive, or let someone else who is having symptoms drive, to the hospital.
While waiting for emergency help to arrive
Make sure the door to your home is unlocked.
Make sure you have a phone with you.
Chew and swallow 1 adult (325 mg) or 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin:
Sit in a comfortable chair and wait for help to arrive.
- Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
- MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician