Heart Attack and Unstable Angina - Overview
What should you do if you think you are having a heart attack? continued...
If you do not have nitroglycerin:
- Call 911 or other emergency services now. Describe your symptoms, and say that you could
be having a heart attack.
- Stay on the phone. The emergency operator will tell you what
to do. The operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Aspirin helps keep blood from clotting, so it may help you
survive a heart attack.
- Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
The best choice is to go to the hospital in an ambulance.
The paramedics can begin lifesaving treatments even before you arrive at the
hospital. If you cannot reach emergency services, have someone drive you to the
hospital right away. Do not drive yourself unless you have absolutely no other
If you think you are having unstable angina but you are
not sure, follow the steps listed above. Unstable angina can lead to a heart
attack or death, so you need to have it checked right away.
How is a heart attack treated?
If you go to the
hospital in an ambulance, treatment will be started right away to restore blood
flow and limit damage to the heart. You may be given:
- Aspirin and other
medicines to prevent blood clots.
- Medicines that break up blood clots (thrombolytics).
- Medicines to decrease the heart's workload and ease pain.
At the hospital, you will have tests, such as:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). It can detect
signs of poor blood flow, heart muscle damage, abnormal heartbeats, and other
- Blood tests, including tests to see whether cardiac
enzymes are high. Having these enzymes in the blood is
usually a sign that the heart has been damaged.
- Cardiac catheterization, if the other tests show that you may be having a heart attack. This test shows which arteries are
blocked and how your heart is working.
If cardiac catheterization
shows that an artery is blocked, a doctor may do
angioplasty right away to help blood flow through the artery. Or a doctor may do
bypass surgery to redirect blood around the blocked