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How to Survive a Heart Attack When You’re Alone



Reading this Could Save Your Life, According to Maimonides Heart Specialist


Each year, over 700,000 Americans experience a heart attack. Approximately 100,000 of those people die as a result. Nearly half of those deaths occur before the patient reaches a hospital. Dr. Robert Frankel, Director of Interventional Cardiology at the Maimonides Heart & Vascular Center, urges you to know the symptoms and steps to take if you find yourself alone having a heart attack.

“Knowing what to do before help arrives is key to surviving a heart attack,” says Dr. Frankel. “It’s imperative to act quickly and follow a few simple steps to prevent much pain and suffering.”

What Is a Heart Attack?

When blood-flow to the heart is obstructed or cut-off, cells in the heart muscle begin to die. That death of heart muscle is a heart attack. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.

According to Dr. Frankel, most people feel one or more of the following symptoms during a heart attack:

- Pressure or heaviness in the chest

- Pain or numbness in the chest that may travel to the shoulder, left arm or neck

- Shortness of breath

- Cold sweat

Additionally, some patients – especially women – may experience:

- Discomfort in the jaw, back or stomach

What Should I Do?

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, take them seriously.

- Call 911.

- Chew and swallow an aspirin.

- Make sure your door is unlocked so Emergency Medical Service (EMS) can get in.

- Notify a relative or friend that you may be going to the hospital.

“It’s important that EMS take you to a hospital, that is a recognized Heart Center, immediately,” Dr. Frankel stresses. “The goal is to get the artery open within 90 minutes."

Dr. Frankel is referring to a catheter-based heart intervention. In hospitals with Cardiac Catheterization Labs, cardiologists can thread a catheter through your blood vessels to your heart, allowing the doctor to find and clear any blockages in your coronary arteries. The sooner this happens, the better.

Unfortunately, the average person waits three hours before seeking help for heart attack symptoms because he or she underestimates the signs or thinks the symptoms will pass. Sometimes, people don’t call for help because they worry that they will be embarrassed if it turns out to be a false alarm. These fears shouldn’t get in the way of seeking immediate medical attention when symptoms last more than a few minutes.

“Having a heart attack – even the thought of potentially having one – is a frightening scenario,” says Dr. Frankel. “But you can improve your likelihood of survival and full recovery by following those four simple steps.”

For those who live alone and/or have chronic medical conditions, it’s smart to have a ‘go bag’ with medications and contact information ready at all times.

Long known for excellence in cardiovascular care, Maimonides Medical Center is among the most distinguished hospitals in the nation for outstanding patient outcomes. To learn more about the Maimonides Heart & Vascular Center, call 718-283-8284, or click here.