6 Ways to Survive a Heart Attack

View as:|
1 of 7

Boost your odds

Many people who are having a heart attack—even those who have had one before—wait too long to seek medical help. Not seeking treatment immediately may increase the extent of permanent heart damage and the chances of heart failure or death. But you can boost your odds of survival and save precious time during a cardiac emergency by taking these measures in advance.

  1. Recognize the warning signs

Not everyone who has a heart attack experiences the same symptoms, and some people have no symptoms at all. Common ones include chest discomfort (pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain); pain radiating to the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach; shortness of breath; sweating, nausea, vomiting, or lightheadedness.

  1. Get help right away

If you experience symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately. Emergency personnel can begin treatment before you reach the hospital. If calling 911 is not possible, have someone drive you to the hospital. Do not drive yourself unless you have absolutely no other alternative. Always have your cell phone with you in case you need to call for help.

  1. Chew an aspirin

While waiting for help to arrive, chew a regular-dose aspirin to help prevent blood clots. Take with a glass of water. Keep a bottle of aspirin in your home, car, office, and toiletry bag.

  1. Take angina medication

If you have been prescribed nitroglycerin tablets or spray for angina, take one to three doses to see whether symptoms are relieved. Lie down, breathe deeply and slowly, and try to stay calm.

  1. Keep a list

Write down medications you’re taking and that you’re allergic to, doctors’ phone numbers, and emergency contact information. Keep copies of this information in several places, such as at home, at work, in your car, and in your wallet or purse so you can readily access it anywhere during an emergency.

  1. Educate your family and friends

Tell the people close to you the warning signs of a heart attack and what to do if you experience those signs. Encourage them to take a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) class so that they can provide assistance if your breathing or heart stops before the ambulance arrives.