If you were to have a heart attack while other people were around, calling out for help is the typically the first thing you would do. But, what if you were alone and a heart attack happened. What would you do? The reality of it is that people often have a heart attack while alone, so it is critical that you know the signs of a heart attack and the steps to take that may save your life.
Recognize the Symptoms of a Heart Attack
A heart attack occurs when there is an interruption or a blockage in an artery, such as a blood clot. The interruption in blood flow to the heart causes the heart tissue to slowly die. It is important to note that not everyone will have the exact same symptoms and women often experience different symptoms than men. You may also only experience one or two of the symptoms. Some of the symptoms may begin slowly, whereas some may come on suddenly and severely.
Classic symptoms of a heart attack may include:
- Severe chest pain, like heaviness, pressing or squeezing at the left or central part of the chest and the pain typically lasts for a minimum of 20 minutes. The pain also may radiate to the neck, jaw or upper left arm.
- Profuse sweating
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the upper central portion of the abdomen
- Women may experience flu-like symptoms, back pain and/or pain in their left leg as well as one or more of the classic symptoms.
First and Foremost
If you are feeling pain and discomfort in the area of your heart and you suspect a heart attack, call 911 immediately and describe the symptoms you are feeling and your location. If you are driving a car and begin to experience any symptoms, regardless of how mild they may be, pull over and call 911 as soon as possible.
*As soon as you recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, try to not panic and/or lose consciousness. *Depending on the severity of the situation, you may only have a few seconds before losing consciousness.
*Do not try to drive to the hospital, no matter how close you are
What to Do When You Are Having a Heart Attack
As soon as you begin having symptoms:
*Start to cough as hard as you can. Take a deep breath and cough again. The cough must be deep and long. The deep breaths and the deep coughing must be repeated every 2 seconds, without interruptions or a delay and continued until help arrives. Deep breaths allow oxygen to enter the lungs and the cough acts as a type of compression, together it helps the heart and to help start the blood flow circulating again.
*Take an aspirin at the first sign of an attack. Aspirin helps the blood platelets to not stick to each other, which reduces clots and assists in blood flow. If you do not have a drink available, chew it up, do not waste time finding something to drink.
*If you have been diagnosed with a heart condition, you most likely have been prescribed a beta-blocking drug. If so, you should take it immediately upon feeling the attack.
*If you have been prescribed bottled oxygen, administer oxygen to yourself.
*If you are having difficulties coughing, thump yourself on the chest as hard as possible. This may help to stimulate a cough and it will keep your heart from expending the effort to pump itself. This is hard to do by yourself, but remain calm, lie still and use your right hand to thump on the chest, just over the heart.
A heart attack can be fatal, so it is important to know the symptoms and have routine medical checkups, especially if you have been previously diagnosed with a heart condition. Reduce your risk of a heart attack by listening to your doctor and making any necessary lifestyle changes, such as stop smoking, exercise regularly, eating healthy and reduce stress.