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First Aid: Heart Attacks

A heart attack (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. These arteries become narrower. It is then more likely that one will become fully clogged, causing a heart attack.

Step 1. Call 911 NOW!

  • Woman on phone.Call 911 for emergency medical services. Immediate medical care may keep the heart from stopping. It may help keep damage to the heart muscle to a minimum.

Step 2. Keep the victim calm

  • Have the victim stop all activities.

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

  • Loosen any clothing that may restrict breathing. This includes ties, collars, and belts.

Step 3. Monitor the victim

  • Do CPR, if needed.

Warning signs of heart attack

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

  • Chest pain or constriction. This is like a belt squeezing the chest

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

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

  • Shortness of breath

  • Pale or gray skin tone and sweating. Also, cool, damp skin.

  • Feeling nauseated

  • Symptoms that aren't relieved by heart medicine

Online Medical Reviewer: Brown, Kim, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Image reviewed by StayWell art team.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 2/19/2014
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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