What to Do During a Heart Attack

Heart disease is the leading killer in the United States. The average person waits three hours before seeking help for symptoms of a heart attack, and many pass away before they reach the hospital. Prompt medical treatment reduces the amount of damage to the heart. Knowing the warning signs of a heart attack and how to respond could save a life.

Before a Heart Attack Occurs

Make sure you check these items off your list.

If You Suspect a Heart Attack

If the person takes chest pain medication, such as nitroglycerin for known heart conditions, help them take it. If the pain does not go away promptly after three minutes of taking the medication, proceed to follow these steps.

Step 1: Call 9-1-1.

A heart attack is a life-threatening emergency, and treatment works best when you get to the hospital quickly. Every second wasted could mean heart tissue lost. If you suspect someone is having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 right away, preferably within five minutes of when symptoms begin. Tell the emergency line operator that you or someone you know is having a heart attack. Do not hang up until you’re told to do so. Make sure your door is unlocked so that when first responders arrive, they don’t have trouble getting to you during these critical moments. Emergency medical services (EMS) providers are equipped with knowledge and resources that can save a life and can provide needed treatment in the shortest amount of time.

Step 2: Keep calm and wait for help to arrive.

Loosen any tight clothing and get as comfortable as possible. Sit down, rest, and try to keep calm. The person experiencing symptoms of a heart attack should never drive themselves to an emergency center. If the person is not allergic to aspirin, have them chew and swallow a baby aspirin – it works faster when chewed and not swallowed whole.

Step 3: Begin CPR if needed.

Only if the person is unconscious and unresponsive, begin CPR following the 9-1-1 operator’s directions. Chest compressions in CPR are used to help keep blood flowing through the heart and the body. CPR can double the chances of survival when used right when a person collapses and just before an automated external defibrillator (AED) delivers shock.

AEDs can also be found in most public buildings, including schools, churches, airports, and malls. Using one can restore a normal heart rhythm in certain cases. In many cases, CPR should be started while someone else gets the AED.

Please take every precaution to get the emergency assistance you or a loved one needs if experiencing a heart attack. Baylor St. Luke’s Emergency Centers are equipped to treat all medical emergencies and offer seamless admission into a hospital, if needed.

911 Basics: Responding to a Heart Attack
CPR Training and You
AEDs: High-Tech Help for Cardiac Arrest
MedlinePlus – Heart attack first aid
Heart.org: call 911 first. And fast

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