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Call 9-1-1 immediately – Do not wait to get help

At the first signs of a heart attack, call for emergency treatment (911). Do not wait for your symptoms to “go away.” Early recognition and treatment of heart attack symptoms can reduce the risk of heart damage and allow treatment to be started immediately. Even if you’re not sure your symptoms are those of a heart attack, you should still be evaluated.

The best time to treat a heart attack is within one hour of the onset of the first symptoms. When a heart attack occurs, there’s a limited amount of time before significant and long-lasting damage occurs to the heart muscle. If a large area of the heart is injured during the heart attack, full recovery becomes much more difficult.

Studies show that the people who have symptoms of a heart attack often delay – or wait to seek treatment – for longer than seven hours.

Reasons why people wait to get help:

People who delay tend to be older, female, African-American and to have a history of angina, high blood pressure or diabetes. People who delay also consult their family members or try to treat themselves first before seeking treatment.

Reasons people delay:

  • They are young and don’t believe a heart attack could happen to them
  • Symptoms are not what they expected
  • They may deny the symptoms are serious and wait until they go away
  • They may ask the advice of others, especially family members
  • They may first try to treat the symptoms them-selves, using aspirin or antacids
  • They may think the symptoms are related to other health problems (upset stomach, arthritis)
  • They may put the care of others first (take care of children or other family members) and not want to worry them

Waiting just a couple hours for medical help may limit your treatment options, increase the amount of damage to your heart muscle, and reduce your chance of survival.

Call 911 – Not a friend

Calling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get life-saving treatment. When you call, emergency personnel may tell you to chew an aspirin to break up a possible blood clot, if there is not a medical reason for you to avoid aspirin. When emergency help arrives, they can promptly begin treatment, and they are trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Also, you’re likelier to get treated faster at the hospital if you arrive by ambulance. If you are having symptoms, do not drive yourself unless there is absolutely no other option.

Action Plan

  • Ask your doctor whether you are at risk for a heart attack and what you can do to reduce your risk factors. Be sure to ask about aspirin and nitroglycerin.
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Learn what to do if you have symptoms: Call 911 after five minutes - do not call a friend or family member for help.
  • Talk with your family members, friends and coworkers about the heart attack warning signs and the importance of acting quickly.