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09 June, 2008

How To-34: "How to Survive a Heart Attack"

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Each year about 1.5 million people suffer heart attacks in the U.S these, nearly 500,000 die, making heart attacks the leading cause of death among Americans. Indeed, if you live in the developed world, the odds are very good that you will have a heart attack at some point in your life. If that time comes, it's essential to act quickly to maximize your chances of survival. If you believe you may be suffering a heart attack, now, seek emergency medical attention at once. Otherwise, read on to learn how to survive a heart attack.


  1. Know the signs of a heart attack. The typical heart attack symptoms include shortness of breath, tightness or fullness in the chest, and intense pain radiating out from the chest. While these are definite warning signs, however, a large percentage of heart attacks are not accompanied by these symptoms. Instead the victim may feel any of the following symptoms, either alone or in combination with other symptoms:
    • Pressure or pain in the chest that seems to be triggered by exertion and which may disappear when you rest.
    • Heart palpitations or rapid heartbeat.
    • Pain in the upper abdomen lasting several minutes, often similar to the feeling of heartburn.
    • Pain or discomfort in the arms, neck, jaw, or teeth.
    • Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting
    • Profuse sweating
    • Nausea (particularly in women).
    • A sudden general feeling of illness.

  2. Be prepared. If you have a history of angina or other heart-related problems and have been prescribed nitrates, such as nitroglycerin, carry your medication with you at all times. If you use an oxygen tank, even if only sporadically, carry it with you as well. Everyone should also carry a card in their wallet that lists medications they are on and medications to which they are allergic. This can help medical professionals effectively and safely treat you for heart attack and any number of other conditions. If you are in a high-risk group, consider getting a cell phone to carry with you everywhere, and talk to your doctor about whether you should also keep an aspirin with you at all times.
  3. Seek medical attention immediately. About 90% of people who suffer a heart attack survive if they arrive at the hospital alive. The high number of heart attack fatalities is mostly the result of people who don't make it to medical attention, and their failure to do so is often caused by their own hesitation to act. If you feel any of the above symptoms, don't try to wait them out. Call 9-1-1 (or your country's equivalent emergency telephone number) to get help immediately. While it's certainly true that the symptoms could be harmless, if you are indeed suffering a heart attack, your life depends on getting medical attention as quickly as possible. Don't be afraid of being embarrassed or wasting the doctors' or paramedics' time--they will understand.
    • If it will take a long time for paramedics to reach you, get someone to drive you to the hospital. Do not attempt to drive yourself, as you may suddenly become unconscious at any time during a heart attack. If you're on the road, stop the car and flag down a passing motorist or call 9-1-1 and wait if you are somewhere where paramedics can quickly reach you.
    • Make people aware that you may be having a heart attack. If you're around family or out in public when you believe you may suffering from a heart attack, let people know. If your situation worsens, your life may depend on someone giving you CPR, and you're more likely to get effective help if people know what's going on. When you get to the hospital, tell the emergency room staff that you think you're having a heart attack. This will help you avoid wasting precious time in the waiting room.
    • If you're on an airplane, notify a flight attendant immediately. Commercial airlines carry medication on board that may be helpful, and the flight attendant can also find out if there's a doctor on the plane and perform CPR if necessary. Pilots are also required to detour to the nearest airport if a passenger is having a heart attack.

  4. Take an aspirin or nitroglycerin if appropriate. Many people can benefit from taking an aspirin at the onset of a heart attack. The medicine is more quickly absorbed if you chew it up, rather than swallow it whole. Aspirin may worsen some conditions, however, so ask you doctor today whether this is an appropriate course of action. If you have been prescribed nitrates, take them (unless your doctor has advised you not to) at the onset of a heart attack.
  5. Take oxygen. If you have an oxygen tank, use it if you feel you're having a heart attack.
  6. Minimize activity. If you cannot get to medical attention quickly, try to remain calm and do as little as possible. Exertion will likely worsen the damage of a heart attack.
  7. Follow professional medical advice after the heart attack. If you survive a heart attack, it's essential to follow your doctor's advice for recovery, both in the days immediately following the occurrence and in the long term. Short-term care is essential to minimize the damage, and long-term lifestyle changes can help you reduce your risk of further complications or a second heart attack.


  • Occasionally heart attacks are not accompanied by any symptoms at all. These can still be harmful or deadly, however, especially since you don't get much warning.
  • Be especially vigilant if you are in a high-risk group, for example if you are elderly, obese, have uncontrolled diabetes, have high cholesterol, are a smoker or if you drink heavily, or if you have a history of heart disease. Talk to your doctor today about ways to reduce your risk of heart attack.
  • If you are present when someone suffers a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. In addition, it's a good idea for everyone to know how to treat a heart attack.
  • Try and keep calm and cool. Use a wet cloth or some sort of cold compress on your groin or under the armpits to cool your body temperature. It has been shown that lowering body temperature even slightly increases survival rate in many cases.


  • A widely circulated email suggests that you should perform "cough CPR" if you're having a heart attack. This method is not recommended. While it may be helpful in certain situations if performed for a few seconds while the victim is under medical supervision, it can be harmful.
  • This article is a general guide only and is not intended to replace professional medical advice.

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