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How to Survive a Heart Attack

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were all alone, and heart attack symptoms hit?

In this article, we look at how to survive a heart attack when you’re alone.

Recognize the Symptoms

First, you want to be aware of the symptoms:

  • Severe chest pain (like squeezing, or a heaviness, or pressing) at the central or left part of the chest, lasting usually for at least 20 minutes. The pain may also radiate to the left upper arm, neck or jaw.
  • Profuse sweating and a feeling of impending doom.

Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, mild chest pain, nausea, vomiting and pain in the upper central part of your abdomen.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to get help and get to the hospital.

First Things First

If you are able, you should call 911 immediately.

You will need help immediately to save your heart muscle. If you’re in a vehicle, pull over and call 911 – don’t continue driving.

Take an Aspirin

Some studies show that taking aspirin (a blood thinner) can improve your chances at survival. Speak with your doctor at your next appointment to learn if this is an option for you.

By taking an aspirin during a heart attack, you may help prevent the clot in your blood vessel from getting bigger, thus giving your body a chance to break it down.

Cough CPR

You may have read that coughing when alone can save you from a heart attack. Please take note of the following information from the American Heart Association:

The American Heart Association does not endorse “cough CPR,” a coughing procedure widely publicized on the Internet. As noted in the 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care, “cough CPR” is not useful for unresponsive victims and should not be taught to lay rescuers.

During a sudden arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), it may be possible for a conscious, responsive person to cough forcefully and repetitively to maintain enough blood flow to the brain to remain conscious for a few seconds until the arrhythmia is treated. Blood flow is maintained by increased pressure in the chest that occurs during forceful coughs. This has been mislabeled “cough CPR,” although it’s not a form of traditional resuscitation.

Why isn’t “cough CPR” appropriate in CPR training courses?

“Cough CPR” should not be taught in lay-rescuer CPR courses because it is generally not useful in the prehospital setting. In virtually all lay-rescuer CPR courses, the finding that signals an emergency is the victim’s unresponsiveness. Unresponsive victims will not be able to perform “cough CPR.”

Are there situations when “cough CPR” is appropriate?

“Cough” CPR may be considered in settings such as the cardiac catheterization laboratory where patients are conscious and constantly monitored (for example, with an ECG machine). A nurse or physician is also present who can instruct and coach the patients to cough forcefully every one to three seconds during the initial seconds of a sudden arrhythmia. However, as this is not effective in all patients, it should not delay definitive treatment.

Please note that this article does not constitute a doctor’s advice. Please consult your physician if you feel you are at risk of  suffering a heart attack.

Photo credit: campdarby via / CC BY