What Is the Immediate Post-Heart Attack Action That Should Be Taken?

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To respond to a suspected heart attack, the National Institutes of Health recommends that someone call 911 or other local emergency number to summon medical help. A heart attack is a medical emergency.

The Mayo Clinic explains that a heart attack occurs when the flow of blood is blocked in a coronary artery, which is a blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart. The interruption in blood flow, also called a myocardial infarction, can damage or destroy part of the heart, limiting its ability to function.

Common symptoms of a heart attack in adults, according to the Mayo Clinic, include pain that feels like pressure, tightness or aching in the chest or arm, sometimes spreading to the neck or jaw. Victims might experience shortness of breath, nausea, heartburn, dizziness or a cold sweat. Some people are tired, have trouble sleeping or feel anxious when they are having a heart attack. The more of these symptoms a person has, especially if they are severe, the greater the possibility that the person is experiencing a heart attack.

According to the National Institutes of Health, someone with heart attack symptoms quickly needs to find a safe place to rest, loosen any tight clothing, and call for emergency medical help. The average heart-attack victim waits three hours before seeking help, and many die before they can be treated. Prompt medical attention increases the chances of survival and reduces the amount of damage to the heart.

If someone has heart attack symptoms but does not recognize them, a person nearby needs to call 911 even if the victim requests other action. If the victim does not respond to questions or is not breathing, someone must contact a medical professional immediately.