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In a Heartbeat: Heart Attack First Aid

Posted in: Blogs , English

Do you know how to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack? You probably know to call 911, but do you know what to do next? Be prepared at a moment’s notice by learning how to spot the symptoms and administer first aid.

Spot the Symptoms

The most common warning sign of a heart attack is a sharp pain or heavy pressure in the chest, but the pain can also occur in one or both of the arms, the back, the shoulders, and the jaw. Some less common symptoms are nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, sudden exhaustion, lightheadedness, and a clammy sweat.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

According to the Office on Women’s Health, only half of women actually experience chest pain when having a heart attack. Instead, they have some of the less obvious symptoms, such as heartburn, fainting, extreme nausea, exhaustion, dizziness, and pressure in the stomach, lower chest, or back. “These heart attacks are sometimes referred to as silent heart attacks because they often go under the radar due to the lack of obvious symptoms,” says Thomas Campbell, MD, physician at St. Joseph Health Primary Care University Drive. If you experience any number of these symptoms, call 911 and seek emergency medical care immediately.

What to Do

If you believe someone is having a heart attack, assess the situation and begin to administer first aid. Take the following steps to help the person in need.

1. Call 911 immediately. Time is of the essence as heart attacks cause increasing levels of damage over time. The sooner the patient receives medical care, the more likely they are to recover.

2. Have them sit down. This can help prevent them from collapsing or falling. Sitting will also reduce the amount of strain on their heart.

3. Remove anything that could slow the blood flow. Clothing with elastic bands or anything that’s too tight can prevent blood from flowing throughout the body.

4. Give them aspirin. A study published in 1999 showed that chewing aspirin, rather than just swallowing the pill whole, caused it to take effect faster. Have them chew the aspirin and swallow it with a small amount of water.

5. If they lose consciousness, begin CPR. Passing out is a sign of cardiac arrest, which means the heart isn’t pumping blood to the rest of the body.Hands-only CPR is simple to perform and will help distribute blood throughout the body. Lay the person on the ground, and begin CPR as soon as possible. Continue CPR until emergency medical personnel arrive.

Know where to go when minutes matter. St. Joseph Health emergency rooms are equipped to treat emergencies at a moment’s notice. To check your heart health, schedule an appointment with your St. Joseph Health primary care physician, who can refer you to a St. Joseph Health cardiologist for additional medical care if needed.


MedlinePlus | Heart attack first aid
British Red Cross | Learn first aid for someone who may be having a heart attack
American Heart Association | Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
American Heart Association | Heart Attack Symptoms in Women
Everyday Health | How to Help a Heart Attack Victim
CDC | Three Things You May Not Know About CPR
NCBI | Aspirin absorption rates and platelet inhibition times with 325-mg buffered aspirin tablets (chewed or swallowed intact) and with buffered aspirin solution.
Harvard Health Publishing | Aspirin for heart attack: Chew or swallow?
OWH | Heart attack symptoms

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