Take Action — Immediately — for a Possible Heart Attack

By James M. Rippe

Unfortunately, many people who are experiencing a heart attack either don’t recognize symptoms or deny them. Doing so can be a serious or even fatal mistake, because delay

  • Significantly increases the risk of sudden death from heart rhythm problems in the early phases of a heart attack.

  • Increases the likelihood that a significant amount of heart muscle will die, thus increasing the likelihood and extent of the heart attack, causing disability if the individual survives.

Timing is everything! If you or a loved one experiences any symptoms or warning signs of a heart attack, use the six-point survival plan I outline here in the following points. Don’t delay!

This six-point survival plan, adapted from American Medical Association recommendations, can save your life. Take these steps if you or a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of a possible heart attack:

  1. Stop what you are doing, and sit or lie down.

  2. If symptoms persist for more than two minutes, call your local emergency number or 911 and say that you may be having a heart attack.

    Leave the phone off the hook so that medical personnel can locate your address in the event that you become unconscious.

  3. Take nitroglycerin, if possible.

    If you have nitroglycerin tablets, take up to three pills under your tongue, one at a time, every five minutes, if your chest pain persists.

    If you don’t have nitroglycerin, take two aspirin.

  4. Do not drive yourself (or a loved one) to the hospital if you think you are having a heart attack.

    Ambulances have equipment and personnel who are trained to deal with individuals who are having a heart attack. Driving yourself or a loved one to the hospital is an invitation for a disaster.

  5. If the person’s pulse or breathing stops, any individual trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) needs to immediately begin to administer it.

    If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available, use it. Call 911 immediately, but do not delay instituting CPR or using an AED.

  6. When you arrive at the hospital emergency room, announce clearly that you (or your loved one) may be having a heart attack and that you must be seen immediately.

    Don’t be shy about it.