Surviving a Heart Attack: 3 Dos and Don'ts

March 28, 2019

Young man with strong chest pain, horizontalA heart attack is a serious, life-threatening event, and every 43 seconds, someone in the U.S. has one.  While timely medical care in an emergency room can increase chances of survival, approximately 120,000 people fail to seek emergency, life-saving care in time.  Understanding the appropriate steps to take when a heart attack strikes can often be the difference between life and death.

What You Should Do During a Heart Attack

First, let’s cover the steps that you should take in the event of a heart attack.  While none of these are a guarantee of a positive outcome, they can buy valuable time.  Research shows that if medical treatment is received within three to four hours of a heart attack, much of the muscle damage to the heart can be avoided.  The longer a patient waits beyond that, the higher the risk of permanent damage. 

  1. Know the Signs of a Heart Attack – Unless you are able to identify the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, you won’t be able to seek timely treatment. While these can vary from one patient to the next, common signs include:
    • Chest pain
    • Pain in one or both arms, the back, jaw, neck, or shoulders
    • Feeling of indigestion
    • Shortness of breath
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Sweating
  2. Call 911 – EMTs have the training and resources needed to transport you safely and quickly to the hospital while beginning initial steps in the treatment process.
  3. Take Aspirin – Aspirin is a blood thinning medication that help inhibit clotting. Research shows that it works fastest when chewed.   

What You Should Not Do During a Heart Attack

In addition to actions you should take during a heart attack, there are a few that you should avoid as well.  Whereas our previous list aided in chances of survival and minimizing heart damage, doing any of the following could have just the opposite effect.

  1. Don’t Make Assumptions – It can be easy to look at someone and assume that their age or fitness level precludes them from suffering a heart attack. Never take a gamble on anyone’s health based on physical appearance.  Anyone can suffer a heart attack, and if the signs are present, 911 should be called immediately.
  2. Don’t Wait it Out – As previously mentioned, the minutes and hours following a heart attack are crucial. The longer you wait, the more likely that permanent, irreversible heart damage will occur. 
  3. Don’t Drive Yourself to the Hospital – Don’t drive yourself to the ER or allow anyone else to either. Wait for an ambulance and the EMTs who have the experience and equipment needed to begin life-saving measures. 

Prompt medical treatment at an ER is an absolute necessity if you think that you may be having a heart attack.  Even if you are wrong, this situation is the very definition of “better safe than sorry.”  If you are in the Zachary area, the emergency room at Lane Regional Medical Center is fully staffed and equipped with the professionals, medications, and devices needed to deliver life-saving care.

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