Over 805,000 people experience heart attacks each year, many of which strike when you’re on your own. Here’s what to do when having a heart attack alone and survive.
What to Do When Having a Heart Attack Alone In 9 Rapid Steps
1. Recognize the Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Heart attacks can strike anytime, but there are a few telltale symptoms that should raise a red flag:
- Severe chest pain that feels like a heavy squeeze or pressure
- Radiating pain from your left arm, jaw, or neck
- A feeling of impending doom
- Profuse sweating (enough to drench your shirt)
Certain people (like women and people with diabetes) could have more subtle symptoms that can be passed off as milder conditions like heartburn, shortness of breath, or nausea.
Rule of thumb: If something doesn’t feel right, call for help. Spotting the signs early makes it easier to learn how to survive a heart attack when alone.
2. Call 911 (and Fast!)
Here’s what to do when having a heart attack alone: stop whatever you’re doing and call 911. Time is muscle when it comes to heart attacks, and you need to get the right treatment as quickly as possible for the best possible outcome.
If you’re on the road during a heart attack, pull over to the side before calling for help. Don't even attempt to drive yourself to the nearest hospital – emergency services are trained to get you there as fast as possible while making sure you're stable enough by the time you arrive.
3. Unlock Your Front Door and Sit Down Near It
Once you’ve called 911, open your front door and sit yourself down on a spot near your front door. This makes it easier for the EMS to find you and get you to the nearest hospital.
Try getting yourself to a half-sitting position if you can. Your feet should be flat on the floor and your legs at a 90-degree angle to promote proper blood circulation.
4. Stay Calm and Rest
Try not to panic while waiting for help to arrive (as they're in the best position in telling you what to do when having a heart attack alone). Anxiety can make symptoms worse so it’s better to try taking calm breaths and rest.
5. Chew an Aspirin (If You Have One)
If you have aspirin in your first aid kit, chew on some now. Depending on what you have on hand, chew one regular aspirin tablet or four baby aspirin tablets.
Most heart attacks are due to a blood clot forming in one of the arteries supplying blood to the heart. This clot blocks blood flow and causes your heart muscle to not get any oxygen and die.
Aspirin is a blood thinner that helps your body dissolve this blood clot and prevent it from becoming a bigger blockage.
6. Take Nitroglycerin (If Prescribed)
If you’re having signs of a heart attack and your doctor has prescribed nitroglycerin for you, now’s a good time to take it. Nitroglycerin dilates your blood vessels to improve blood flow to your heart and buy you more time while waiting for treatment.
Word of warning: Never take someone else’s nitroglycerin if a doctor hasn’t prescribed you one. The wrong dosage can plummet your blood pressure to dangerously low levels or interact with other medication you may be taking.
7. Don’t Eat or Drink Anything
What not do when having a heart attack alone? Eat or drink anything in the middle of a heart attack (apart from the aspirin tablet).
You have a high chance of vomiting during a heart attack and may aspirate (ingest fluid in your lungs) or choke on your food or drink. This is a dangerous situation to be in and can lead to delays in your treatment
8. Don’t Do Cough CPR
Cough CPR, or forcing yourself to cough at a regular interval, can add even more stress to your heart. Don’t do it unless a trained healthcare professional advises you to do so.
In fact, doing any kind of CPR should only be done if you're unconscious and your heart stops beating.
9. Trust Your Instincts
Don’t let anyone brush off your symptoms or coax you out of the right treatment. Heart attacks are serious conditions that can be life or death.
Having a medical emergency like a heart attack can be a scary thing, but being present and knowing what to do when having a heart attack alone can save your life.
With the right, timely treatment, you can survive a major health crisis and get yourself back on your feet in no time.
Have you ever had a heart attack or know someone who has experienced one? Let us know in the comments section below!
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