How to know if you are having a heart attack:
Sometimes the pain of a heart attack feels like bad heartburn. You may be having a heart attack if you:
- Feel a sharp pain or pressure in your chest.
- Feel tightness in your chest.
- Have shortness of breath for more than a couple of seconds.
- Have giddiness for more than a couple of seconds.
Don't ignore the pain. If you even think you might be having a heart attack, get to a hospital emergency room.
What you should do if you think you are having a heart attack:
Right away, call for an ambulance to take you to a hospital. While you wait for the ambulance to come, chew one regular tablet of aspirin. Don't take the aspirin if you're allergic to aspirin.
If you can, go to a hospital with advanced care facilities for people with heart attacks. In these medical centers, the latest heart attack technology is available 24 hours a day. This technology includes rapid thrombolysis (using medicines called "clot busters"), cardiac catheterization and angioplasty.
In the hospital, you might be given "clot busters" that reopen the arteries to your heart very fast. Nurses and technicians will place an IV line (intravenous line) in your arm to give you medicines. They will also do an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), give you oxygen to breathe and watch your heart rate and rhythm on a monitor.
What causes heart attacks?
Heart attacks are caused by a blockage in the arteries that carry blood to the heart. Usually the blockage is caused by the build-up of fat inside an artery. This build-up of fat is called a plaque. Plaque looks a little like the globs of fat on a piece of raw chicken.
How to avoid having a heart attack:
Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and how to reduce your risk of having a heart attack. Your doctor will probably suggest you do the following:
- If you already smoke, quit now. Ask your doctor for help in quitting smoking.
- Eat a diet low in saturated fat and sodium (salt). Ask your doctor about a healthy diet.
- Do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 to 5 times a week.
- If you're overweight, lose weight. Your doctor can give you advice on diet and exercise.
This is a general overview on this topic and may not apply to everyone. To find out if this handout applies to you and to get more information, talk to your doctor.
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