Wellness: Injuries and Emergencies
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.
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.