What to do in case of a heart attack
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in U.S and someone has a heart attack every 42 seconds. The key heart disease risk factors are high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking. According to the American Heart Association, a heart attack happens when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood flow can slowly become narrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances.
Knowing and recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack could save your life someday. The symptoms may vary from person to person, depending on age, gender, and other medical conditions. For example, people with diabetes may not feel anything when having a heart attack.
The most common symptoms may include:
- Chest discomfort (pressure, squeezing pain) that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back;
- Pain that goes beyond your chest to other parts of your upper body (arms, back, neck, stomach, teeth, and jaw);
- Unexplained shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort;
- Cold sweat;
- Unexplained fatigue.
Here’s what you have to do after recognizing the symptoms:
- Call 911 immediately. Many people delay treatment because they doubt they are having a heart attack, but is always better to be safe than sorry;
- Don’t drive yourself to the hospital unless you have no other choice. It’s better to wait for the emergency medical services personnel who can start treatment on the way to the hospital. They’re also trained to revive a person if their heart stops;
- Try to remain calm, sit or lie down;
- If you are not allergic to aspirin, try to chew and swallow a small one (it works faster when chewed and not swallowed whole).
Don’t forget that you should always be prepared. Know your risk factor and what you have to do to reduce them. You should also have a heart attack survival plan which must include information about medicines you’re taking, allergies, your doctor’s number, and people to contact in case you go to the hospital. Keep this information in your wallet.