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Heart Attack and Unstable Angina - When to Call a Doctor

Do not wait if you think you are having a heart attack. Getting help fast can save your life. Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out.

Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:

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After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Nitroglycerin. If you typically use nitroglycerin to relieve angina and if one dose of nitroglycerin has not relieved your symptoms within 5 minutes, call 911. Do not wait to call for help.

Women's symptoms. For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.

Why wait for an ambulance?

By calling 911 and taking an ambulance to the hospital, you may be able to start treatment before you arrive at the hospital. If any complications occur along the way, ambulance personnel are trained to evaluate and treat them.

If an ambulance is not readily available, have someone else drive you to the emergency room. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.


If you witness a person become unconscious, call 911 or other emergency services and start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation). The emergency operator can coach you on how to perform CPR.

To learn more about CPR, see the Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) section of the topic Dealing With Emergencies.

Who to see

You will be evaluated and treated by an emergency medicine specialist in the emergency room. For ongoing care, you will likely see a cardiologist and other doctors and nurses who specialize in heart disease. If surgery is needed, you will be referred to a cardiovascular surgeon.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 13, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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