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What should I do if I think someone is having a heart attack?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

If someone has a heart attack, it is often in the presence of family. Learn what you can do to help in those important moments after a heart attack in this video of Dr. Oz and Joy Behar.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 911 immediately.

Why is there a need to act fast? Death or permanent disability can result from a heart attack. The risk of death or permanent damage can be reduced with timely treatment. Some newer treatments need to be given soon after the onset of a heart attack in order to be effective. It is important to know the symptoms of a heart attack and act right away.

Dr. Daniel L. West, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

If you think someone is having a heart attack, dial 911 immediately for an ambulance. Getting medical professionals on scene as quickly as possible increases one's chance of survival. If calling from home, have all the lights on and the door open, making it easier for the paramedics to spot the house and get instantly inside.

While waiting for the ambulance's arrival, having the person chew aspirin does actually help. Aspirin is an effective blood thinner capable of diminishing the severity of the attack. By chewing rather than swallowing, it's getting into the bloodstream quicker. During the waiting period also try to make the person as comfortable as possible. Place him or her in a comfortable position, loosen clothing and provide reassurance by staying close by. Additionally, collecting the bottles or labels of any medications the person is currently taking later helps doctors at the hospital. Certain drugs cause complications while treating heart attacks.

At the hospital, doctors get to work opening the affected artery to assist blood flow, thus lessening the damage to the heart muscle. It's why the quicker the person arrives at the hospital, the better.

If you suspect the person is having a heart attack based on his or her signals, call 911 or the local emergency number immediately.

A person having a heart attack probably will deny that any signal is serious. Do not let this influence you. If you think the person might be having a heart attack, act quickly.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.