Signals of a Heart Attack

  • Persistent chest pain or discomfort: Victim may have persistent pressure, squeezing, or crushing type pain in the chest that is not relieved by resting, changing positions, or medication.
  • Pain may spread to jaw, neck, or arms
  • Difficulty breathing: Victim may feel short of breath or is breathing faster than normal.
  • Abnormal skin appearance: Victim’s skin may be pale, ashen (gray), or bluish in color. Victim’s skin may also feel cool and moist.
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Note: Not all of these signals occur in every heart attack. If you are with someone having “signals”, expect denial.
  • Insist on calling 9-1-1.

Care for a Heart Attack

Recognize the signals of a heart attack.

  • Remain calm (you’ll do great!).
  • Have the victim stop activity and rest comfortably (place them in a position of comfort).
  • Quickly confirm information about the victim’s current condition (awake? breathing? symptoms?).
  • Call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • Answer all of the 9-1-1 Dispatcher’s questions as accurately as possible.
  • Closely follow any instructions given by the 9-1-1 Dispatcher.
  • Do not hang up until the 9-1-1 Dispatcher says to.
  • Stay with and reassure the victim.
  • Assist with medication, if prescribed for the victim.
  • Monitor the victim’s condition closely.
  • Be prepared to give CPR, if necessary.
  • (Please know, that no matter what the outcome, you did the best you could.)

5 Steps of CPR

Make sure you and the scene are SAFE
1. ASSESS: Shout and tap or gently shake. If victim is unresponsive, call 9-1-1.
2. POSITION victim on their back, remove pillows from behind the head, open the airway using head-tilt/chin-lift method.
3. CHECK FOR BREATHING: Look, Listen, and Feel for five seconds. If victim is not breathing, give two slow breaths.
4. CHECK CAROTID PULSE (or brachial pulse on infant) for five to ten seconds. If victim has no pulse, begin chest compressions. Chest compressions are more effective if the victim is on a solid surface like the floor, not on a bed or sofa.
5. RECHECK PULSE AND BREATHING after one minute. If there is still no pulse, continue cycles uninterrupted until medical help arrives.

Note: If for whatever reason you are uncomfortable with mouth-to-mouth breathing, at the very least do chest compressions until help arrives.


HAND POSITION Two hands on lower half of sternum One hand on lower half of sternum Two fingers on lower half of sternum (one finger width below nipple line)
COMPRESS 1.5in to 2in 1in to 1.5in .5in to 1in
BREATHE Slowly until chest gently rises Slowly until chest gently rises Slowly until chest gently rises
CYCLE 15 compressions and 2 breaths 5 compressions and 1 breath 5 compressions and 1 breath
RATE 15 compressions in about 10 seconds 5 compressions in about 3 seconds 5 compressions in about 3 seconds


First Aid for Choking

CONSCIOUS (Awake) ADULT: If the victim cannot cough, speak, or breathe at all, have someone call 9-1-1. Stand behind and wrap your arms around the victim. Place the thumb side of your fist on the middle of their abdomen, just above their navel. Grasp that fist with your other hand and give quick forceful upward thrusts into their abdomen until the object is coughed up or the victim becomes unconscious.

UNCONSCIOUS (Not Awake) ADULT: Have someone call 9-1-1. Position the victim on their back. Remove all pillows from behind the head. Open their airway using the head-tilt/chin-lift method. Attempt to give breaths. If unsuccessful, reattempt the head-tilt/chin-lift procedure and blow more forcefully. You may be able to blow past the object. If air won’t go in, place the heel of one hand against the middle of their abdomen, just above the navel. Give up to five abdominal thrusts. Then, lift their jaw and tongue and sweep out their mouth. Tilt head back, lift chin, and give breaths again. Repeat breaths, thrusts, and sweeps until breaths go in. Once breaths go in, check victims breathing and pulse. If there is no breathing and no pulse, start CPR.


How to Reduce Your Risk of a Heart Attack

There are several ways to reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Following this advice could save your life (or the life of someone you love).

  • Don’t Smoke Cigarettes and Avoid Inhaling the Smoke of Others. Cigarette smoking is the most important single cause of preventable death in the United States.
  • Exercise Regularly. Participate in continuous, vigorous physical activity for at least 20 to 30 minutes (or more) at least three times a week
  • Maintain Proper Weight and Eat Nutritious Food in Moderate Amounts. Eat a well-balanced diet that’s low in cholesterol and saturated fats, and moderate in sodium (salt). Fatty foods contribute to atherosclerosis which is a major contributor to heart attacks. Eating too much sodium can also cause high blood pressure in some people.
  • Have Your Blood Pressure Checked Regularly and Have Regular Medical Check-Ups. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the heart and other organs.