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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. 

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 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:

    • Do not take aspirin if you are allergic to it.

  • Sit in a comfortable chair and wait for help to arrive. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 4/21/2014
© 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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