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  » First Aid  »  Heart Attacks
A suspected heart attack is always a medical emergency. As quickly as possible, get the person to a hospital with an emergency service and a coronary care unit.

Each year, tens of thousands die from heart attacks because they delay seeking medical help. Any unusual or severe chest pain is cause for alarm and should be investigated immediately.

The pain may be caused by indigestion or other causes, but only a doctor can make the proper diagnosis.

  • Chest pain lasting longer than a few minutes. It may be intense or dull and may feel like squeezing, crushing, or a heavy feeling starting under the breastbone or on the left side of the chest. It often spreads up and to the left arm, although the right arm, shoulders, back, neck, and jaw may also be involved. Unlike the pain typical of angina, the pain of a heart attack does not subside with rest, although it may fade only to return with greater intensity.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A feeling of impending doom
  • Summon an emergency squad without delay. If this is not practical, transport the person to the nearest emergency room. If you suspect you are having a heart attack and you are alone, call for help; do not try to drive yourself.
  • While waiting for help to arrive, reassure the patient, but observe carefully and do not leave him alone.
  • Have the patient sit up or lie down, whichever position feels more comfortable.
  • If cardiac arrest occurs, start CPR immediately.
  • Do not allow the person to eat or drink unless a doctor specifically instructs you to do so.


Many conditions besides heart attacks can cause chest pain. If the pain is accompanied by coughing or spitting up blood, pneumonia or some other lung problem may be the cause. A collapsed lung may be signaled by a sudden, sharp pain and shortness of breath. Chest pain that is worsened by movement or deep breathing may be pleurisy or a muscular problem. Indigestion and hiatal hernia are other common causes for chest pain. Any suspicious chest discomfort should be evaluated by a doctor.