What To Do When You Or Someone Is Having a Heart Attack

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Am I Having a Heart Attack? 

You feel a tight, heavy pain circling your chest. The pain rushes from your chest to your arms, shoulders, and neck. What could your pain mean? Could it be a heart attack? 

Heart attacks are caused by an interruption of blood supply to the heart. If the blood flow is blocked, your heart is starving of oxygen and your cells begin to die. Plaque begins to build up in the walls of your coronary arteries, and when ruptured, a heart attack presents itself. Plaque can take up to minutes, hours, days, and even weeks to rupture, making it a real ticking time bomb. 

Did you know that someone suffers from a heart attack every forty seconds? According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 805,000 people experience a heart attack each year. Would you feel confident in your abilities to help someone having a heart attack? Or would you know what to do if you were experiencing one? Would you know what signs to look for? 

In this blog we’ll get into what you can do to help save a life, or maybe even your own. Armed with knowledge about heart attacks, what symptoms to look out for, and what you can do to help yourself and others, you’ll feel more confident about what to do when such a situation occurs. 

heart attack

What To Do If You Think You’re Having a Heart Attack

Many of us fear having a heart attack, especially if we live alone and are prone to them due to age or medical issues. Anger, stress, and grief are common triggers that could lead to a heart attack, but the real trigger is plaque formation in the heart’s arteries. A blood clot forms when a plaque ruptures, causing the arteries to block, eventually leading to a life-threatening heart attack. 

Typically, heart attacks start slowly with mild discomfort and pain. Our bodies are extremely intelligent and send us warning signals that are important to acknowledge.

Signals Of a Heart Attack

These signals can help you determine if you are experiencing the early stages of a heart attack. The early stages of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain, pressure, fullness, discomfort
  • Discomfort in other areas of the body
  • Difficulty breathing and dizziness 
  • Nausea and cold sweats

Your body’s signals suggest you are experiencing early signs of a heart attack vary from patient to patient. Some symptoms may start and stop again, others may last for a couple of minutes up to several hours. Other heart attacks can have “beginning” symptoms that may go on for days or even weeks before the heart attack becomes severe. 

If you’re alone and experience any of the symptoms: 

  • Call 911. The average person waits three hours before seeking help for heart attack symptoms. Don’t take the risk of waiting and hoping for the best. Once you make the call, paramedics should arrive at your house within minutes. The sooner you get to the emergency room, the better the chance of survival. 
  • Unlock your front door and sit up beside it. This makes it easier for the paramedics to find you without having to break your door down. Remember that time is of the essence. 
  • Take aspirin while you wait for the paramedics. Aspirin works on platelets by stopping their clotting action. Because blood clots can block the arteries that supply blood to your heart, aspirin’s anti-clotting action means the blood can travel more easily while you wait for help. 
  • Sit up and lean forward. Ensure that you are as comfortable as you can get. Sitting will ease the strain on the heart and will help you avoid getting hurt if you suddenly collapse. 

woman sitting on bench

What To Do If Someone Is Having a Heart Attack 

Heart attacks are never planned and can creep up on you when you least expect it. You could witness someone suffering from a heart attack in the most unexpected of places or times, so it’s important to educate yourself on what you can do to help. According to Complete Care, here’s what you should do when trying to help someone experiencing a heart attack: 

  • Call 911. The same rule as if you are the one experiencing the heart attack. Paramedics are trained to help and will know exactly what to do. In the meantime, there are some things you can do after calling 911. 
  • Have the person chew or swallow aspirin. As previously mentioned, aspirin can help unclog the arteries. 
  • If the person is unconscious or not breathing, begin CPR or use an AED: 


    • Lay the person flat on their back, tilt their head back and open their airway
    • Double-check for breathing by listening and feeling for airflow 
    • If the individual is not breathing, place one hand on top of the other, interlace your fingers, keep your arms straight and use your body weight to perform compressions below the breastbone (center of the chest) 
    • Perform 30 chest compressions at least 2 inches deep, and then provide 2 breaths 
    • Perform about 100 to 120 compressions a minute 

For AEDs:

      • AEDS are typically located in busy public areas on a visible wall 
      • If an automated external defibrillator is readily available, once you turn it on, it will provide you with instructions 

The Common Causes of Heart Attacks 

Although heart attacks can happen to anyone, common factors. These include: 

  • Age. Men forty-five and older and women fifty five and older are more likely to have a heart attack than younger men and women.
  • Tobacco. Smoking and long-term exposure to secondhand smoke is more likely to cause a heart attack. 
  • High blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure can damage arteries leading to the heart, increasing the chances of a heart attack.
  • High cholesterol. A high level of low-density cholesterol can likely narrow the arteries leading to a possible heart attack.
  • Obesity. This is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, high levels of bad cholesterol, and low levels of good cholesterol. 
  • Family history. If a brother, sister, parent, or grandparent experienced an early heart attack, this might increase your risk of having a heart attack.
  • Unhealthy diet. A diet high in sugars, fats, processed foods, trans fats, and sodium increases the risk of heart attacks. 

Every Minute Matters 

It’s important to act quickly when helping someone who is experiencing a heart attack. About half of those who die from heart attacks do so within the first hour after symptoms begin. Immediate action is required. Witnessing or experiencing a heart attack is a very scary and unpleasant situation, but thankfully there are ways to help you in such a situation. It’s important to be prepared. Nobody plans on having a heart attack. Whether you’re at a restaurant, on a plane, or at a mall – it can occur anywhere and anytime. One important step when being prepared is to create a survival plan that includes information about medicines you’re taking, known allergies, your doctor’s number, and people to contact in case you go to the hospital. And you can do this with FOUND ME. 

FOUND ME can help

FOUND ME offers emergency cards, bracelets, and necklaces with unique QR codes on them, and when scanned, a paramedic or good samaritan trying to help can gain quick access to that individual’s medical information such as blood type, allergies, height, weight, and any other medical conditions that are worth knowing about in a medical emergency. When the QR code is scanned, up to five emergency contacts are notified within seconds. It’s up to the paramedic or good samaritan to share their exact location with you. FOUND ME is confidential and strives to keep personal information as private as possible. You get to choose how much information you’re comfortable with sharing. FOUND ME gives you the option to either share your medical information when scanned immediately or request permission from the emergency contacts. To learn more about FOUND ME and what it has to offer, visit https://foundme.com

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