the heart

Are You Prepared to Respond to a Heart Attack?

the heart1 in 4 deaths are from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death in the United States. More than half of the deaths from heart attacks happened from a first time heart attack. Preparing yourself to intervene during a heart attack may be the difference between life and death.

In the event of a heart attack, you need to act quickly. These tips will help prepare you to respond in the appropriate manner.

Symptoms During the Attack

For each person, heart attack symptoms may vary. This is a list of possible symptoms that someone might experience:

  • Chest pressure and pain that comes from the center of the chest.
  • Shooting pain in upper body such as your back, arms, stomach, neck, and jaw.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea, indigestion, fatigue, black outs, light headedness, and unexplained sweating.

If you or someone around you is experiencing any of these symptoms, the best response is to call 911 / 999 immediately.


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Responding to the Attack if the Victim is Conscious

1. Call 911 / 999: Paramedics are trained in keeping a victim alive until they reach the hospital. You need to get them to the scene as quickly as possible.

2. Aspirin: While you are waiting for the paramedics to arrive, give the victim four baby aspirins, or one crushed regular aspirin. They must chew them so that it can enter their system quickly. This is very important.

3. Console The Victim: Tell them what is happening and try and console them. Tell them “help is on the way.”

4. Ask Questions: Try to find out information that the paramedics will need to know such as the patient’s age and how long they have had chest pain for.

Responding to the Attack if the Victim is Unconscious

If the person is unconscious, it is time to do CPR. If you are not trained in CPR, you will need to use a new method backed by the American Heart Association in 2008, called Hands Only CPR (without mouth to mouth) that can help someone that does not know CPR, save a life.

Don’t hesitate. The victim’s life depends on a quick response. Brain cells die after oxygen stops for four minutes.


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Before you start CPR, you need to call 911 / 999 so they can talk you through the process. The operator will instruct you to press very hard and fast in the center of the chest. Then repeat the motion over and over. More can be seen at this video demonstration on Hands Only CPR on the American Heart Association website.  You can also take classes on the OnlineAHA.com website as well if you are interested in learning more on the subject.

Prevention Is Always the Best Option

The best way to stop a heart attack is to tackle it before it becomes serious. Preventive measures like checking your cholesterol and eating foods low in cholesterol are both good ways to do this.

Other ways that you can avoid a heart attack include:

  • Avoid Smoking: Smoking doubles the changes of developing heart disease.
  • Drink Alcohol in Moderation: One alcoholic drink a day can help reduce heart disease risk; however, you must avoid drinking in excess, as this can have negative effects on heart health.
  • Regular Checkups: Many people don’t take preventive measures because they think that the symptoms are for less serious conditions. Take regular visits to the doctor to help recognize and react to these symptoms early on.

Heart.org Hands-Only CPR Instructional Video

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