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911 Basics: Responding to a Heart Attack

Heart disease is the leading killer in the United States. Knowing what the warning signs of a heart attack are 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.

  • Marked apprehension or sense of impending doom.

Be prepared

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 cardiac care. Tell family and friends where they are.

  • Post emergency rescue numbers on each of your phones.

  • Advise family and friends to call for emergency care if chest pain lasts more than a few minutes.

There are other causes of chest pain besides a heart attack. However, do not assume that you are just having indigestion or a panic attack. Get medical help right away.

What to do

If you suspect someone you're with is having a heart attack:

  • Call 911 or your local access number for emergency medical service. Tell the dispatcher where you are and that someone is having a heart attack. Don't hang up until you're told to do so.

While waiting for emergency help to arrive:

Help the victim get into a relaxed sitting position, with the legs up and bent at the knees, to ease strain on the heart.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Larson, Kim, APRN, FNP
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 3/27/2013
© 2000-2014 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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Poudre Valley Health System employees dedicate themselves to providing patients and other customers with world-class care and service. Outside organizations recognize that, calling Poudre Valley Health System's hospitals some of the best in Colorado and even the best in the nation. Some of those accolades are listed below:

 




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