Wellness

What to do if you're having a heart attack

We bring you a heart health special report to ensure no heart attack goes unrecognized and untreated. Be sure to share these tips with all of your family and friends.

heart health, heart attack, CPR, symptoms

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… At home
Call 911. Fast treatment, through clot-busting drugs or angioplasty, can reduce the damaging effects of a heart attack caused by a blocked artery (or even abort it). Therapy works better the earlier it’s given — within two hours from the onset of symptoms is best — since tissue dies every minute your heart is deprived of oxygen.

Try to unlock the front door to make it easier for paramedics to enter. Then sit down, preferably against a wall, so you won’t fall if you pass out. Loosen tight clothing and cover up with a blanket to keep warm.

If you have a prescription for nitroglycerin, a fast-acting heart-disease medication, take your normal dosage.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada suggests chewing and swallowing one adult 325-mg tablet of acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) or two 80-mg tablets, believed to help thin the blood. But experts caution not to take this if you’ve used it before and had an adverse reaction.

Breathe deeply to help calm yourself and disperse adrenalin as you wait for help. Panic constricts blood vessels and will decrease vital oxygen flow

… At work
Call 911. “Getting those paramedic vehicles rolling as quickly as possible is crucial,” says Joe Micucci, commander of community medicine for the Ottawa Paramedic Service.

Contact security or a first aid team. Workplace law varies across the country, but employers are generally required to have staff trained in first aid, like emergency scene management or CPR.

In Ontario, for instance, even an office with fewer than five people has to have one trained person; in offices of more than 200, there must be a first aid room. More offices and public places are also getting life-saving automated external defibrillators to deal with cardiac arrest.

… On the road
Pull over and call 911. It’s not worth trying to drive yourself. If you fall unconscious and crash, the consequences could be more grave than a heart attack. Plus, emergency care starts in the ambulance; paramedics can often give information to the hospital before you even arrive, making treatment more efficient.

If someone near you has one…
Call 911 and encourage the person not to “wait and see.” Doctors see too many people who wait too long for help (even in subsequent heart attacks). Find security or a first aid person. See if there’s a defibrillator on site. Most libraries, offices and sports arenas have installed them, and it’s useful to have one on hand if the patient’s heart stops before help arrives.

Ask if the person has drugs, like nitroglycerin; offer to get it for them. (Never share your own meds or pills, experts warn.) Tell them to take deep breaths.

11 heart disease buzzwords to familiarize yourself with:

Angina: Chest pain that occurs when diseased blood vessels restrict blood flow to the heart.

Angiogram: An X-ray test where dye is injected into arteries to show artery blockages.

Arrythmia: An irregular heartbeat or heart rhythm. Symptoms include palpitations, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath and chest discomfort.

Atherosclerosis: A disease where plaque builds up in the arteries.

Atrial fibrillation: A disorder where the heart beats irregularly.

Cardiomyopathy: A disease that leads to generalized deterioration of the heart and its pumping ability.

Diastolic blood pressure: The lowest blood pressure measured in the arteries. It occurs when the heart muscle is relaxed between beats.

Electrocardiogram (ECG): A test that uses electric sensors to show the pattern of electrical activity in the heart.

Heart murmur: An abnormal heart sound caused by turbulent blood flow.

Palpitation: An uncomfortable feeling within the chest caused by an irregular heartbeat.

Thrombosis: A blood clot inside a blood vessel or heart cavity.

For more important heart health information click here.