How to Survive a Heart Attack
If you think you might be having a heart attack, here are some steps you can take to help your chances of survival. Though they may seem like common sense, during an emergency, it is easy to become confused and forget something important that could potentially save your life.
#1 Act Quickly
Call 9-1-1 right away. Time is your enemy here. “Time is also muscle,” says Dr. Albert DeLuca from ColumbiaDoctors Medical Group in Hawthorne, NY. “The faster you get treatment, the less damage there will be.”
"Many treatments are most effective when given within one-two hours of when the heart attack begins," says Dr. DeLuca.
#2 Chew an Aspirin
After calling 9-1-1, you should chew an aspirin. “Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot,” says Dr. DeLuca, “so a blood thinner [aspirin] can help prevent further clots from developing.”
Chewing the aspirin instead of swallowing it whole gets it into your bloodstream faster.
#3 Take Nitroglycerin
If you've already had a heart attack, ask your physician if you should keep nitroglycerin on hand in the event of a subsequent attack. Nitroglycerin relaxes the smooth muscles around blood vessels. It has long been a treatment for angina, which is chest pain caused by a decreased supply of blood oxygen to the heart.
#4 Information to Have Available
Find out the location of the nearest hospital that offers 24-hour emergency cardiac care and keep the address handy.
The American Heart Association recommends that doctors give patients who have heart disease or who are at high risk for a heart attack a copy of their resting electrocardiogram (ECG). If you have a copy of your resting ECG, give it to the emergency room doctors to help guide your treatment.
Keep a list of all medications, including supplements, you are taking or are allergic to. “Patients should know what medications and at what doses they are on, so we can make appropriate adjustments to their treatment,” says Dr. DeLuca.
And one last note from Dr.DeLuca: “If you’re not sure if this is a heart attack or just indigestion, don’t waste time, get help. Better safe than sorry.”