At the first signs of a heart attack, call for emergency treatment (911). Do not wait for your symptoms to “go away.” Early recognition and treatment of heart attack symptoms can reduce the risk of heart damage and allow treatment to be started immediately. Even if you’re not sure your symptoms are those of a heart attack, you should still be evaluated.
The best time to treat a heart attack is within one hour of the onset of the first symptoms. When a heart attack occurs, there’s a limited amount of time before significant and long-lasting damage occurs to the heart muscle. If a large area of the heart is injured during the heart attack, full recovery becomes much more difficult.
Studies show that the people who have symptoms of a heart attack often delay – or wait to seek treatment – for longer than seven hours.
People who delay tend to be older, female, African-American and to have a history of angina, high blood pressure or diabetes. People who delay also consult their family members or try to treat themselves first before seeking treatment.
Waiting just a couple hours for medical help may limit your treatment options, increase the amount of damage to your heart muscle, and reduce your chance of survival.
Calling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get life-saving treatment. When you call, emergency personnel may tell you to chew an aspirin to break up a possible blood clot, if there is not a medical reason for you to avoid aspirin. When emergency help arrives, they can promptly begin treatment, and they are trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. Also, you’re likelier to get treated faster at the hospital if you arrive by ambulance. If you are having symptoms, do not drive yourself unless there is absolutely no other option.