Heart Attack: Lifesaving steps you can take
Every year, more than 60,000 Canadians suffer a myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack. Because every minute counts during a heart attack, it is important to be prepared to take the right action quickly!
What are the common signs of a heart attack?
The symptoms of a heart attack can be different from one person to the next. Any of the following signs and symptoms may be present:
- chest pain, which may feel like pressure or discomfort, tightness, sharp pain, burning, or heaviness in the chest
- discomfort or pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, back, or arm (left or right, sometimes both arms)
- shortness of breath
It is important to know that the symptoms of a heart attack are sometimes different in women. In fact, women may have several symptoms without the typical chest pain. They may also experience discomfort or pain, but in the upper abdomen or lower chest, which may be interpreted as heartburn rather than a symptom of a heart attack.
The result? Women may take longer to get medical attention, increasing their risk of serious heart damage or death from a heart attack.
Being organized can have a significant impact
If you have cardiovascular disease, follow your treatment carefully
If you have cardiovascular disease or have had a heart attack in the past, it is important that you take all of your medicine exactly as prescribed. If you have any questions about your treatment, don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist.
If you have been prescribed nitroglycerin (e.g., for angina), keep it with you at all times.
Keep acetylsalicylic (ASA) on hand
Taking acetylsalicylic acid (also called ASA or aspirin) is generally recommended for heart attack symptoms, but you need to have some with you! ASA isn’t right for everyone, so be sure to discuss it with your healthcare provider at your next visit.
Because you need to chew ASA to absorb it more quickly if you’re having a heart attack, you can buy chewable tablets, but regular tablets work just as well. To reduce waste, buy only small sizes, because if all goes well, your bottle will still be full when the expiration date is reached!
Keep a list of your medication
Your medication list is valuable information for emergency personnel, as the medications you take can affect the best course of treatment in a medical emergency.
Keep a copy in your wallet and in an easily accessible place in your home. Remember to ask the pharmacy staff for a new list if your treatment changes.
What to do if you have heart attack symptoms
If you are having a heart attack, there are things you can usually do yourself. By acting quickly, you can increase your chances of survival and reduce damage to your heart.
- Call 911 right away
Get medical help quickly. Trust your instincts. It’s best to call 911, even if you’re not sure what your symptoms are. Do not try to drive yourself to the hospital. Paramedics have the skills to begin treatment as soon as they arrive, and they have the necessary equipment (such as a defibrillator) if your condition worsens.
- If you are using nitroglycerin, take one dose
- Take acetylsalicylic acid (ASA, aspirin)
If your doctor or health care professional has told you to, or if the 911 operator asks you to, chew and swallow one (1) regular 325 mg tablet or two (2) 80 mg or 81 mg ASA (aspirin) tablets. Tell the emergency personnel that you have already taken this medicine.
- Stop all activity
Try to stay calm and sit or lie down in a comfortable position while waiting for help to arrive.
Being prepared can make all the difference in the event of a heart attack. CPR training is a good addition to this preparation. This training will enable you to help others if their heart stops beating completely (this is called cardiac arrest).
If you have any questions about what to do if you have a heart attack or your medication related to a hearth condition, don’t hesitate to talk to your pharmacist.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.