How to Survive a Heart Attack: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

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How to Survive a Heart Attack: 12 Steps (with Pictures)
How to Survive a Heart Attack: 12 Steps (with Pictures)

Every year 700,000 people suffer a heart attack in the United States; about 120,000 of them died. Heart attacks and other types of heart disease are the leading cause of death in America, and of course the number one "killer" in the world. About half of the deaths caused by heart attacks occur within the first hour, before the victim reaches the hospital. Therefore, if you are having a heart attack, acting quickly is an important step to maximize your chances of survival. Notifying emergency services within the first five minutes and receiving medical care within the first hour of a heart attack can be life-or-death. If you feel that you may be having a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately. If not, read on for more strategies to survive a heart attack.


Part 1 of 3: Watching for Signs of a Heart Attack

Survive a Heart Attack Step 1
Survive a Heart Attack Step 1

Step 1. Watch for chest pain

Mild pain or discomfort in the chest, rather than sudden severe pain, is the most common symptom of a heart attack. The pain may feel like there is a heavy weight on your chest, a feeling of squeezing or tightness around the chest, or indigestion/peptic ulcers.

  • Mild to severe pain or discomfort in the chest usually occurs on the left or center of the chest, with persistent pain for several minutes; The pain may subside then come back.
  • During a heart attack, you may feel a painful pressure sensation and squeezing or tightness in your chest.
  • Chest pain can spread to other parts of the body, including the neck, shoulders, jaw, teeth and abdominal area.
Survive a Heart Attack Step 2
Survive a Heart Attack Step 2

Step 2. Watch for other symptoms

Chest pain may be accompanied by other symptoms that indicate you are having a heart attack; however, it turns out that many people have heart attacks with very little or no chest pain. If you experience any of the following symptoms, especially if they are accompanied by chest pain, seek immediate medical attention:

  • Hard to breathe. Slight difficulty breathing may occur before or at the same time as chest pain, but shortness of breath can also be the only sign that you are having a heart attack. Panting or having to take long, deep breaths can be warning signs that you are having a heart attack.
  • Bad feeling in stomach. Stomach pain, nausea and vomiting sometimes accompany a heart attack and can be mistaken for the stomach flu.
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded. Feelings as if the world is moving or spinning, or as if you are about to pass out (or actually pass out), can be warning signs of a heart attack.
  • Anxiety. You may feel restless, have a sudden panic attack, or have an unexplained feeling of unease.
Survive a Heart Attack Step 3
Survive a Heart Attack Step 3

Step 3. Know the signs of a heart attack in women

The most common sign of a heart attack for both men and women is chest pain. However, women (and some men) can suffer a heart attack with little or no chest pain. Women, as well as the elderly and diabetics - are also more likely to experience the following heart attack symptoms:

  • Women may experience chest pain that does not match what is considered the sudden, intense pain of a heart attack. Chest pain in women may appear and subside; it starts slowly and gets worse over time, decreasing with rest and increasing with physical activity.
  • Pain in the jaw, neck or back are common signs of a heart attack, especially for women.
  • Pain in the upper abdomen, cold sweats, nausea and vomiting are more common in women than in men. These signs can be mistaken for peptic ulcers, digestive problems or stomach flu.
  • Sweating cold and nervousness are common symptoms in women. Usually, this will be more like stress or anxiety than the usual sweating that occurs after exercise or physical activity.
  • Anxiety, sudden panic attacks and unexplained bad feelings are symptoms that are more common in women than men.
  • Sudden and unexplained feeling of tiredness, weakness and powerlessness are common signs of a heart attack in women. These symptoms may last for a short period of time or persist for several days.
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness and fainting.
Survive a Heart Attack Step 4
Survive a Heart Attack Step 4

Step 4. React quickly to the symptoms that arise

Most heart attacks get worse slowly rather than suddenly hitting the victim. Many people do not realize that they are experiencing an important health emergency. If you or someone you know experiences one or more of the common signs of a heart attack, seek immediate medical attention.

  • Speed is very important. About 60% of deaths from heart attacks occur within the first hour. On the other hand, patients who reach the hospital within an hour and a half after the attack have a greater chance of surviving than those who arrive later than that.
  • Many people mistake a heart attack for other minor ailments, including peptic ulcers, stomach flu, anxiety and others. It is important that you do not ignore or underestimate the symptoms that may signal a heart attack and seek help immediately.
  • Symptoms may vary from person to person, may be mild or severe, and may appear, subside and then reappear within a few hours. Some people can suffer a heart attack after showing only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all.

Part 2 of 3: Getting Help During a Heart Attack

Survive a Heart Attack Step 5
Survive a Heart Attack Step 5

Step 1. Seek medical help immediately

About 90% of people who suffer a heart attack survive if they reach the hospital alive. Many heart attack deaths occur because victims cannot receive immediate medical attention and this failure is often due to their own hesitation to take action. If you experience any of the above symptoms, don't try to wait for it to subside. Call 118 (or the applicable emergency number in the country you are in) for immediate help.

  • While it's true that the symptoms that appear may be harmless, if you do suffer a heart attack your life depends on getting medical help right away. Don't be afraid to be embarrassed or waste the time of the doctors or paramedics, they will understand you.
  • Emergency medics can start treatment as soon as they arrive, so calling emergency services for help is the quickest way to get help during a heart attack.
  • Don't drive yourself to the hospital. If medical personnel cannot reach you quickly enough, or if there are no other emergency options, ask a family member, friend or neighbor to drive you to the nearest emergency room.
Survive a Heart Attack Step 6
Survive a Heart Attack Step 6

Step 2. Let people know that you may be having a heart attack

If you are around your family or in a public place when you feel that you may be having a heart attack, let those around you know. If your condition worsens, your life could depend on someone giving you CPR and you are more likely to get effective help if those people know what's going on.

  • If you are driving, stop the car and ask passersby to stop or call 118 and wait if you are in a place where paramedics can quickly reach you.
  • If you are on a plane, notify the flight crew immediately. Commercial flights carry medications that may be helpful, and the crew can also find out if there is a doctor on board and perform CPR if necessary. Pilots are also required to turn back to the nearest airport if a patient on board has a heart attack.
Survive a Heart Attack Step 7
Survive a Heart Attack Step 7

Step 3. Minimize activity

If you can't get medical help quickly, try to stay calm and move around as little as possible. Sit down, rest and wait for emergency medical services to arrive. Exercising can put a strain on your heart and exacerbate the damage caused by a heart attack.

Survive a Heart Attack Step 8
Survive a Heart Attack Step 8

Step 4. Take aspirin or nitroglycerin, if necessary

Many people can benefit from taking aspirin at the onset of a heart attack. You should take one tablet immediately and chew it slowly while waiting for the medical staff to arrive. If you have been prescribed nitroglycerin, take one dose at the start of a heart attack and call emergency services.

However, aspirin can make some conditions worse. Therefore, ask your doctor today if taking aspirin is appropriate

Part 3 of 3: Recovering from a Heart Attack

Survive a Heart Attack Step 9
Survive a Heart Attack Step 9

Step 1. Follow professional medical advice after a heart attack

When you survive a heart attack, it's important that you follow your doctor's advice for healing, both in the days right after the attack and for the long term.

You will most likely be prescribed medicines to reduce blood clots. You will most likely take these drugs for the rest of your life

Survive a Heart Attack Step 10
Survive a Heart Attack Step 10

Step 2. Be aware of changes in your emotions and outlook on life

Experiencing depression is a fairly common thing to happen to people who have survived a heart attack. The depression can stem from shame, self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, regrets about previous lifestyle choices and worry or uncertainty about the future.

Physical recovery program under supervision; renewed social relations with family, friends and colleagues; and professional psychological help are some of the ways survivors can return to normal life after a heart attack

Survive a Heart Attack Step 11
Survive a Heart Attack Step 11

Step 3. Be aware of the risk of a second heart attack

If you have a heart attack, you have a higher risk of having a second heart attack. Nearly a third of heart attacks in the United States occur in people who have survived a previous heart attack. The following factors will increase the risk of having a second heart attack:

  • Smoke. If you smoke, your chances of having a second heart attack almost double.
  • High cholesterol. Unhealthy cholesterol levels are one of the important causes of heart attacks and other heart complications. Cholesterol can be especially dangerous when it co-occurs with high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.
  • Diabetes, especially one that is not properly controlled, can increase the chances of a heart attack.
  • Obesity. Being overweight can raise your cholesterol and blood pressure and cause heart complications. In addition, obesity can lead to diabetes, which is another factor that puts you at risk for a second heart attack.
Survive a Heart Attack Step 12
Survive a Heart Attack Step 12

Step 4. Make changes in your lifestyle

Medical complications from an unhealthy lifestyle put you at a higher risk of suffering a heart attack. Lack of physical activity, obesity, cholesterol, high blood sugar and blood pressure, stress, and smoking all increase the risk of a heart attack.

  • Reduce consumption of saturated fat and trans fat. Try to avoid foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils.
  • Lower cholesterol levels. This step can be achieved through diet, regular exercise or cholesterol medication prescribed by a doctor. A good way to lower your cholesterol levels is to eat only oily fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption. Drink only as much as the recommended daily amount and avoid drinking alcohol in excess.
  • Reduce your weight. A healthy Body Mass Index ranges between 18.5 and 24.9.
  • Sport. Talk to your doctor about how you can start an exercise program. Supervised cardiovascular exercise is ideal but not necessarily necessary. With your doctor's advice, you can start a cardiovascular exercise program (e.g. walking, swimming) based on your current level of fitness and focusing on reasonable goals that can be achieved over time (e.g., walking around your block without gasping for air).
  • Quit smoking. Quitting smoking immediately can reduce the risk of a heart attack by half.


  • If you are there when someone is having a heart attack, immediately call emergency services. Also, it would be nice if everyone around you knew how to deal with a heart attack.
  • Keep your name and emergency contact number with your health card.
  • If you have ever had angina or other heart-related problems and have been prescribed a nitrate, such as nitroglycerin, keep your medication with you at all times. If you use an oxygen tank, even if only occasionally, take it with you wherever you go. Everyone should also carry a card that lists the various medications they are currently taking and medications that trigger allergies. This step can help medical workers treat heart attacks and other ailments effectively and safely.
  • If you are in a high-risk group, consider always carrying a cell phone with you wherever you go and consult your doctor about whether you should also carry aspirin with you all the time.
  • Try to stay calm and relaxed. Use a wet washcloth or some kind of cold compress on the groin area or under the armpits to lower your body temperature. It has been shown that lowering body temperature even a little can increase survival rates in many cases.
  • Sometimes a heart attack is not accompanied by any symptoms. But it can still be dangerous or deadly, especially if you don't get enough warnings.
  • Preparing for a heart attack even if you don't have a heart problem is always a good idea. One aspirin (80 milligrams) can determine life and death for many people. Aspirin also takes up little space in your purse or bag. Also, don't forget to bring a health card that lists your allergies, current medications and any other health problems you may have.
  • Be especially vigilant if you are in a high-risk group for a heart attack. For example, if you are elderly, obese, have uncontrolled diabetes, have high cholesterol levels, smoke or drink heavily, or if you have a history of heart disease. Talk to your doctor today about ways to reduce your risk of a heart attack.
  • Eat healthy, exercise enough and avoid smoking at all costs. If you are getting older, consider talking to your doctor about taking small amounts of aspirin regularly. This step can help reduce the chance of a heart attack.
  • Take a brisk walk every heart. Try to walk 10,000 steps per day.


  • This article is only a general guide and is not intended to replace professional medical advice.
  • Don't try to ignore or underestimate the symptoms that could point to a heart attack. The sooner you get help, the better.
  • A widespread email advises you to perform "Cough CPR" if you are having a heart attack. This method is not recommended. While this can be helpful in certain situations if done for a few seconds while the victim is under medical supervision, "Cough CPR" can be dangerous.

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