911 basics: responding to a heart attack

Emergency SignWritten by: Nathan Larsen, MD  Medical Director & Emergency Medicine Physician at St. Agnes Hospital Emergency Department

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Knowing what the warning signs of a heart attack are and how to respond could save a life.

The following guidelines can help you make the right decisions and take the right steps when seconds count.

Heart attack symptoms

The following may be symptoms of a heart attack. Not all of these warning signs occur in every attack. Seek immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms occur:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck, back and arms.
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.
  • Marked apprehension or sense of impending doom.

There are other causes of chest pain besides a heart attack. However, do not assume that you are just having indigestion or a panic attack. Get medical help right away.

What to do

If you suspect you or someone you’re with is having a heart attack:

  • Call 911. Tell the dispatcher where you are and that someone is having a heart attack. Don’t hang up until you’re told to do so.

While waiting for emergency help to arrive

Get yourself or the victim into a relaxed sitting position, with the legs up and bent at the knees, to ease strain on the heart.

About Dale Michels Center for Heart Care

Agnesian HealthCare offers comprehensive Heart Care Services close to home in Fond du Lac. These comprehensive Heart Care Services, offered through the Dale Michels Center for Heart Care, bring to the region a diverse and complete package of quality cardiac procedures, including open-heart surgery (coronary artery bypass grafts), coronary angioplasty, stent placements, cardiac catheterizations and other procedures. Agnesian HealthCare has been providing cardiac diagnostics, pacemaker clinic and cardiac rehabilitation for many years, and these remain part of the Dale Michels Center for Heart Care. For more information, call (920) 929-2300.

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