What to Do During a Heart Attack

Hearts attacks are serious and can be deadly. Knowing the right course of action can save a life.

You never know when a heart attack could strike you or someone you know. For that very reason, it is important to know the signs of a heart attack and respond appropriately.

Recognize the symptoms.
Symptoms can vary from one person to the next. Possible symptoms include:

  • Chest pain: This pain tends to feel like pressure or squeezing and usually is felt in the center of the chest. The can also be felt in the jaw, shoulder, arms, back and stomach.
  • Changes in mental function
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Numbness, aching or tingling in the person's left arm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea

Administer medication if applicable.
Once you notice the symptoms, have the person sit and relax. Ask if they take medication such as nitroglycerin for chest pain. If so, help the person take a dose of the medication. However, if the pain persists three minutes after the medication is taken, call 911.

Respond and react.
If the person is not taking chest pain medication, keep them calm, loosen any tight clothing and call for medical help. If the person is unconscious and not responding, the 911 operator will instruct you to begin CPR.

Keep your cool and take control.
Regardless of the person's reluctance, if you recognize the symptoms a heart attack, call 911. Don't let the patient talk you out of seeking help. Also, don't wait to see if the symptoms pass. Every minute counts when responding to and treating a heart attack.

The Chest Pain Center at St. Petersburg General Hospital strives to reduce the mortality rates of patients with chest pain by assessing, diagnosing, and treating patients. Our center is certified by the Society of Chest Pain Centers to promote optimal care. For more information or for a physician referral, call our free Consult-A-Nurse® service at 1-888-741-5122.

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