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First Aid: Heart Attacks

A heart attack, also known as acute myocardial infarction, or AMI, is an emergency, but the condition that causes it usually takes years to develop. Over time, fatty substances collect on the walls of the heart's arteries. As these arteries become narrower, it's more likely that one will become fully clogged, causing a heart attack.

1. Call 911 NOW!

  • Call 911 for emergency medical services. Immediate medical care may keep the heart from stopping and may help minimize damage to the heart muscle.

2. Keep the Victim Calm

  • Convince the victim to stop all activities.

  • Reassure the victim to keep him or her calm, so the heart uses less oxygen.

  • Loosen any clothing that may restrict breathing, such as a tie, collar, or belt.

3. Monitor the Victim

  • Perform CPR if necessary.

Warning Signs of Heart Attack

The warning signs of a heart attack can include any of the following:

  • Chest pain or constriction, like a belt squeezing the chest

  • Heaviness in the chest area, as if a heavy weight is resting on the chest

  • Heaviness or pain radiating to the arms, shoulders, jaw, or teeth

  • Shortness of breath

  • Pale or gray skin tone and sweating; cool, damp skin

  • Feeling nauseated

  • Symptoms that aren't relieved by heart medication

Online Medical Reviewer: Brown, Kim, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 2/19/2014
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