What To Do If Someone Is Having A Heart Attack

Do you know what you’d do if someone nearby had a heart attack? It’s a daunting situation to imagine, and immediate response is vital. This guide provides essential knowledge about heart attacks, from identifying the initial signs to administering life-saving first aid. By understanding these steps, you could save a life.


  • A heart attack occurs every 40 seconds in the United States.
  • Approximately 805,000 people in the United States suffer a heart attack annually.
  • Out of these cases, around 605,000 are first heart attacks, while 200,000 occur in individuals who have previously had a heart attack.
  • Surprisingly, about 1 in 5 heart attacks are considered silent, where the damage occurs without the person being aware of it.
  • Cardiovascular disease is still the biggest cause of death in the United States, with 928,741 fatalities expected in 2020.

Immediate actions to take during a heart attack

Knowing what to do if someone has a heart attack can mean the difference between life and death. You must act swiftly when you identify symptoms, such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or pain in the arm or jaw.

Call emergency services immediately

The first step in mitigating a heart attack is calling 911. Ensure you explicitly communicate the symptoms to the operator so they can provide relevant advice and send the appropriate medical support.

This swift response is the crux of how to stop a heart attack from resulting in irreparable damage or death.

Stay with the person and provide reassurance

While waiting for medical professionals, staying with the person experiencing a heart attack is crucial. This assurance can help alleviate their stress and maintain a sense of calm. Remind them that help is on the way and they are not alone.

Help the person take their prescribed medication

If the person experiencing a heart attack has a history of heart problems, they may have been prescribed medication. Helping them to take this medication can limit the damage caused by the heart attack and buy precious time.

Loosen tight clothing and maintain a comfortable position

Comfort is vital during a heart attack. Make sure to loosen any tight clothing, which can cause additional stress or discomfort. Encourage the person to sit down and rest. Lying down may increase pain; a half-sitting position, with the head and chest slightly elevated, is usually better.

Assist with the use of aspirin

Healthcare professionals may recommend using aspirin to reduce clotting and improve blood flow to the heart. This simple act of first aid for a heart attack can be an effective, immediate response. But always ensure to consult with medical professionals before administering aspirin.

performing CPR

Performing CPR

If the person loses consciousness and has no pulse, perform CPR. Here’s how to do it.

Recognizing the need for CPR

CPR is necessary when someone isn’t breathing or has no pulse. This scenario often occurs in severe heart attacks and requires an immediate response.

Basic steps to perform hands-only CPR

If you need to perform CPR, focus on chest compressions. Put the heel of one hand on the center of the person’s chest, place your other hand on top of the first, then push down hard and fast, about 100 to 120 compressions per minute. You should push down at least two inches but not more than 2.4 inches.

Importance of CPR in sustaining blood flow and oxygenation

CPR’s primary purpose is maintaining blood flow and oxygenation to the brain and vital organs. It serves as a temporary measure to keep someone alive until medical personnel arrive.

Understanding the use of a defibrillator

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a life-saving tool that can significantly improve the survival rate of someone experiencing a severe heart attack.

Purpose and availability of AEDs in public places

AEDs deliver an electrical shock to the heart to restore its regular rhythm. Many public places, such as shopping malls, gyms, and airports, now have AEDs for emergencies.

Locating and using an AED during an emergency

Most defibrillators are often placed near first aid kits. They usually come with easy-to-follow instructions, both written and voiced, to guide you through each step of the process.

Following the AED prompts and instructions

The AED will guide you to attach the electrode pads to the person’s chest; then it will automatically analyze the heart rhythm. If the device advises a shock, ensure no one touches the person, then press the shock button.

Afterward, continue CPR until medical professionals arrive.

Definition of a heart attack

A heart attack, medically known as a myocardial infarction, occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart becomes blocked, typically by a blood clot. This can severely damage the heart muscle, and prompt action is crucial in treating a heart attack.

Importance of recognizing and responding to a heart attack

Understanding what to do if someone is having a heart attack is vital. Every second matters as the blockage in the heart’s arteries deprive the organ of oxygen. The quicker the response, the better the chance of limiting the damage to the heart muscle and enhancing survival rates.

Warning signs

Signs of a heart attack include:

  • Discomfort or pain in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness

Some people might also experience discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. Reacting immediately to these symptoms is essential to stop a heart attack from escalating.

Video courtesy of ProCPR.

How can I tell if someone is having a heart attack?

Besides the physical symptoms, you may notice the person appearing anxious or confused, having a pale or ashen face, or feeling an impending intense doom. Recognizing these signs quickly and knowing what to do if someone has a heart attack can save their life.

Recognizing common risk factors for heart disease

Risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity, diabetes
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history of heart disease

Awareness of these factors can encourage preventive actions and early detection of potential heart problems.

Statistics on heart attacks

Heart attacks remain a leading cause of death worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks, account for the most global deaths annually.

In the United States alone, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds, underlining the importance of first aid for heart attacks and rapid response.

Preventive measures and lifestyle changes

There are multiple ways to prevent heart attacks and lower the risk of heart disease. These include eating a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and refraining from smoking. Keeping blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes under control also play significant roles in heart health.


How do you keep someone alive during a heart attack?

During a heart attack, immediately call 911. Encourage the person to sit or lie down and stay calm. If unconscious, perform CPR, starting with chest compressions at 100-120 compressions per minute until help arrives.

How do you give CPR for a heart attack?

To give CPR for a heart attack, place the heel of your hand on the center of the person’s chest and interlace your fingers. Perform chest compressions by pushing hard and fast. Give rescue breaths by tilting the head back, lifting the chin, and delivering two breaths after every 30 compressions.

What are the signs of an impending heart attack?

The signs of an impending heart attack are chest discomfort, shortness of breath, discomfort in other areas like arms, neck, or jaw, and other symptoms like cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.

What to do after a heart attack at home?

After a heart attack at home, it is crucial to follow the doctor’s instructions. Rest and avoid physical exertion. Take prescribed medications as directed, monitor vital signs, and watch for unusual symptoms. Seek medical help immediately if there are signs of complications or worsening symptoms.

What should you never do during a heart attack?

During a heart attack, never ignore the symptoms or delay seeking medical assistance. Do not drive yourself to the hospital; call emergency services instead. Avoid administering any medications or remedies without medical guidance. It’s vital to prioritize prompt medical care and follow professional advice.

How long does a heart attack last?

A heart attack can last from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the severity and whether it’s treated promptly. Symptoms may last for a few minutes, but damage to the heart muscle can occur if blood flow is not restored quickly.

Can CPR restart a stopped heart?

CPR cannot restart a stopped heart. It maintains circulation and oxygen flow, buying time until defibrillation or other medical intervention can be applied.

What is the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

A heart attack happens when a coronary artery gets blocked, damaging the heart muscle. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions, causing the heart to stop suddenly.

Should I give them aspirin?

If someone is experiencing a heart attack and is not allergic to aspirin, giving them one adult aspirin (325 mg) can be beneficial. However, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional before administering any medication to ensure it is safe and appropriate for the individual. Call 911 first.

Should they take any heart medication they have?

They should take any prescribed heart medication, but only if instructed by a medical professional. Call 911 first.


Knowing what to do in a heart attack is vital, especially if you have a heart attack. The crucial steps outlined above can drastically increase the survival chances of a person suffering from a heart attack. Prompt action is life-saving, so familiarizing yourself with these steps is a responsibility we all share.

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