About 735,000 Americans have heart attacks each year, and, according to the American Heart Association, about 15% of them are fatal. But research shows that more than half of all heart attack victims put off getting help by more than two hours, and more than a quarter delay by six hours or more. If you think you could be having a heart attack, don’t wait. Follow the steps below and get help.
Know the Signs
The five major symptoms of a heart attack include:
• Chest pain or discomfort
• Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
• Shortness of breath
• Weakness and light-headedness
• Pain or discomfort in the arm or shoulder
Symptoms more common in women include:
• Nausea or vomiting
• Breaking out in a cold sweat
• Unusual fatigue
Pressure in the back, jaw, lower chest or upper abdomen
What to Do
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all sudden cardiac deaths occur outside the hospital. That means ignoring heart attack symptoms could cost you your life. Follow these three simple steps:
• Call 9-1-1. Don’t wait longer than five minutes to get help. Say to the 911 operator, “I think I’m having a heart attack.”
• Follow the operator’s directions. He or she may advise taking aspirin, if there are no allergies. Aspirin can help by inhibiting clots that further restrict blood flow to the heart.
“Aspirin is a drug that impacts the ability of platelets to stick to each other,” says Reginald Blaber, MD, a cardiologist with Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, New Jersey. “That’s important because during a heart attack a clot is forming in one of the coronary arteries. By taking aspirin it can relatively quickly take those platelets and make them less sticky, slowing the growth of the clot.”
• Don’t try to drive yourself to the hospital or have someone drive you. Take an ambulance and let the emergency professionals do their jobs. That way diagnosis and treatment can begin on the scene. Plus, you’ll more likely get faster treatment at the hospital.
This content originally appeared on Sharecare.com.