How To Survive A Heart Attack

heart attack

Do you know that a heart attack is one of the leading causes of death globally? Studies have shown that cardiovascular diseases are responsible for taking 17.9 million lives annually.

Every year about 790,000 people have a heart attack in the United States. With such a considerable number, chances are most likely that you might have heard of someone close to you getting a heart attack.

The graph below shows the number of worldwide deaths due to cardiovascular diseases.


The health care systems and hospitals have completely redefined the way they handle a heart attack.

Fortunately, most survivors go on to live a happy and fulfilling life if you recognize that you are having a heart attack and act immediately. Most of the ambulances nowadays can remotely transmit electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) waves of patients while the patient is on the way to the emergency room.

This is highly advantageous since the doctors and emergency room staff can prepare themself to handle the patient when he arrives at the hospital, and the time window to save the patient can be cut down to one hour.

What is a heart attack?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

As we all know, the heart’s primary function is to pump oxygenated blood through the corona artery to the body. A heart attack occurs when the circulation of blood to the heart is blocked. If this blockage is not opened immediately, the heart tissue will be deprived of oxygen and die instantly.

This is usually triggered by the rupture of atherosclerotic plaque, which causes the blood to clot leading to a blockage in the artery.

The moment a heart attack happens, immediate medical care is critical. If a block is cleared in two to three hours, it will be less damaged than the one left for five to six hours.

Some stats on heart attack

Signs and symptoms of heart attack

Recognizing the symptom of a heart attack is a vital key in getting immediate medical attention. If you feel that you might be having a heart attack, get immediate medical help without losing any time.

Remember, when it comes to heart attack, every second counts.

Although chest pain is the classic symptom of heart attack, other symptoms should not be ruled out, such as 

  • Heartburn like symptoms
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Profuse sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the shoulders, upper part of the stomach, or back
  • Pain in one or both arms

It might sound strange, but as many as one-third of patients don’t have chest pain — especially those who are older or diabetic.

Sometimes the symptoms can be vague. They come on gradually, stop, and start again.

Dangers and consequences of a heart attack?

The result of a heart attack is hard to predict as it is mainly dependent on how much heart muscle dies.

This is mainly determined by:

  • Which corona artery is blocked.
  • How much time has passed between an attack and the moment when the artery is reopened.
  • The exact location of the blockage in the artery etc.

A blockage that is resolved in a few hours causes minimal damage than the one left untreated for five or six hours.

A blockage near the arterial origin will affect more heart muscle than a blockage that occurs far down the artery.

What to do if you think you have a heart attack?

If you think that you have a heart attack, you could use some steps to get immediate help.

1. Call the emergency helpline number

Once a heart attack strikes, the longer the time you wait to go to the hospital, the less likely you will survive.

Immediate medical assistance is very much necessary to avoid any damage to the heart muscle. Unfortunately, most people fail to identify the symptoms, and it will be too late when they seek medical help. You will have the best chance of survival if you make it to the hospital within an hour of the heart attack. 

Image by F. Muhammad from Pixabay

Calling the national emergency number (911 in the case US/999 in Malaysia) is like having the healthcare facility come to you. The treatment can be started before you even reach the hospital.

If you are in a public space such as a university, library, store, or even workplace, chances are, they have a defibrillator at hand.

Defibrillators are electronic devices that can restore a normal heartbeat by sending waves of electric pulses to the heart. This device helps to correct an arrhythmia or even restore the heart beating if the heart stops suddenly.

Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are in many public spaces designed to save the life of people. Even untrained bystanders can use this device with easy to use instructions.

2. Take aspirin

Studies have shown that taking a regular dose of aspirin (325 milligrams) will help minimize heart attacks.

Aspirin helps to slow the ability of the blood to clot. If taken after a heart attack, this drug helps to minimize the size of blood clots that might form.

3. Remain calm

When the emergency medical team arrives, calmly explain your symptoms and the details of medications you are taking, if any.

Don’t worry if your symptoms turn out to be a false alarm; remember that you do not gamble with your life when it comes to a heart attack.

4. Cough CPR

Medical professionals do not endorse cough CPR, but it is worth trying if you feel you are losing grip on yourself. 

As per sources breathing deeply and then coughing deeply can help to raise your blood pressure for a second or two, this will help to pump more blood into your brain.

The sources also claim that if your heart is not beating abnormally, it will help set it back to normal.

5. Water and cyanide pepper

Another recommendation is to drink a glass of water with a spoon of cyanide pepper while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Some online sources claim that consuming cyanide pepper helps to boost the heart rate and balance blood circulation. Some others claim that this is effective in stopping the bleeding instantly.

What not to do during a heart attack?

1. Don’t take nitroglycerin

Indeed, taking specific medication such as nitroglycerin can temporarily widen the blood vessels to improve the blood supply to the heart, but this won’t help during the time of a heart attack.

Experts claim that this substance is only useful in treating angina when there is an imbalance of supply and demand for blood from the heart.

2. Dont don’t apply any pressure to your chest region

Applying pressure to the chest region won’t help unless the heart has completely stopped beating.

The best thing to do is to remain calm and wait for the medical personnel to arrive.

3. Don’t drive yourself to the hospital

If you have a heart attack, the wisest thing to do is call the national emergency number and wait for the ambulance to arrive.

It is not recommended to drive yourself to the hospital unless you find it necessary. Say, for example, if you are in an isolated rural area and have to wait for hours for the ambulance to arrive, waiting for the health care professionals to come might be more dangerous than arranging your transport.

How to help someone having a heart attack?

The first thing to do if you think someone has a heart attack is to call the emergency number.

Once you have made the call, help them move to a comfortable position to ease the heart’s strain. 

The best position is to sit on the floor with head and shoulders supported and knees bent. If you can find cushions, try to place it behind the person’s lower back and under the knees.

Ask them if they are allergic to aspirin. If not, give them 300mg of aspirin and ask them to chew it slowly.

While helping the person to remain calm, monitor their pulse, breathing, and level of responsiveness.

Final Words

If you think you have a heart attack, don’t worry, as you are not the only one) person to undergo one.

The most helpful thing you can do for yourself or someone undergoing a heart attack is to call the emergency helpline number without wasting any time.

In the ambulance, the health care professionals will measure your heart activity, and it will be wirelessly sent to the hospitals. The emergency staff will be well prepared and ready as soon as you enter the hospital.