Be Prepared

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Harvard Medical School
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Be Prepared

Heart and Circulatory
Heart Attack
Be Prepared
Be Prepared
Take these few steps so you can be ready for quick action in case someone in your family has a heart attack.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Get Ready Just in Case

Make sure you and family members know the signs of a heart attack and are ready to act quickly if necessary. The sooner you receive treatment, the more likely it is to save heart tissue and perhaps your life.

You may want to print out and save these warning signs of a heart attack and the heart attack plan so you and your family members can act immediately if trouble develops. It may be reassuring to post the information on the refrigerator or another area where family members can easily find it.

Remember that each heart attack is different and not everyone experiences all the possible warning signs. Also remember that these sensations come and go. Some people feel a lot of pain, others experience very little. Other people experience a feeling of fullness in the chest. Whatever your symptoms, do not delay in getting to an emergency room. The chance of catching a heart attack early is more important than the inconvenience of having doctors check what turns out to be a false alarm.

Have a Plan

The key to surviving a heart attack is swift action. After recovering from your first attack, gather the family and talk about what they should do if you experience signs of a repeat attack. You can speed the time between your symptoms and getting care by having a plan ready.

  • Get help quickly. Nothing is more important during a heart attack than getting immediate care. The sooner you stop a heart attack, the more heart tissue is saved and the more likely is a full recovery.
  • Make a list of hospitals in your area that provide 24-hour emergency cardiac care. Identify which of these hospitals is closest to your home and job. Post a list of the hospitals in your home, where family members can find it, and keep a list with you at all times.
  • Don't drive to the hospital alone. Call 911 for emergency rescue if you are alone or if your symptoms are severe.
  • Keep two lists of all your medications. Leave one at home where family members can find it and carry the other with you at all times. In the event you do suffer another heart attack, doctors will want to know what medications you are taking so they can prescribe the best treatment for you.
  • Have your family trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a way to help restore heart function and breathing in someone who has collapsed or is unconscious. It is a good idea for family members of heart attack victims to learn CPR in case an emergency ever strikes. Most community centers, hospitals, fire and police organizations and private groups, such as the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross run regular CPR classes. Contact information is listed below.
heart attack,heart,cpr
Last updated June 10, 2014

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