The heart is a muscle that needs oxygen and nutrients found in your blood in order to pump more blood rich with these essential ingredients to other parts of your body. The blood is delivered to the heart's walls via the coronary arteries.
When these arteries become blocked or narrowed, and the heart's muscle walls are starved of vital oxygen and nutrients, a heart attack occurs.
The Warning Signs of Heart Attack
- Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms.
- Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.
- As a woman, YOU may have these less common warning signs:
- Atypical chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain.
- Nausea or dizziness without chest pain.
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing without chest pain.
- Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue.
- Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness.
What to do when you think you are having a heart attack
1. Call 911, preferably from a land line – When you use a land line phone instead of your cell phone, the dispatcher will see your home address on his/her screen. If you do use a cell phone, give your address to the emergency medical dispatcher twice for verification. After you call 911:
- Emergency Medical Dispatchers can talk to you about your symptoms and tell you what to do.
- Once, they reach you, EMS providers can perform an electrocardiogram to test your heart’s electrical activity. They can then send your results to the emergency department, cardiologist or the EMS medical director for immediate confirmation and interpretation. This means evaluation and treatment starts right away — before you even get to the hospital. This is critical because the longer you wait, the more damage your heart can incur.
- “The Greyhound Reason” – Leave the driving to EMS. Not every hospital is capable of providing 24/7 emergent cardiac catheterization, the preferred treatment for most heart attacks. EMS providers can swiftly take you to a hospital that is prepared to provide the emergency care you need.
- Most importantly, EMS providers have the tools to restart your heart if it stops.
2. Gather your medications – Give all the medications you take — including the dosages — to the EMS providers when they come to your home. In fact, it is always a good idea to have this list prepared for doctor visits and emergencies.
3. Make it easier on EMS – Turn your house lights on, unlock the door, and, if someone is with you, have them stand in the driveway to wave down the ambulance driver.
4. Aspirin Dos and Don’ts – Unless you are allergic to aspirin, immediately chew four uncoated baby aspirins or one adult aspirin to keep your blood platelets from sticking together. Powder analgesics and ibuprofen products will not thin out platelets like aspirin. If you can take aspirin, keep it in your home.
If you or someone you are with is experiencing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, don’t wait and don’t drive to the hospital. Call 911 right away for lifesaving help.
What happens when you arrive at the hospital - Code STEMI