The 9 Things You Need to Have Ready for a Heart Attack

A heart attack can occur at any time, and it’s important to be prepared when it does. When you have a heart attack, time is of the essence. In order to have the best chance of survival, you need to be able to treat your heart attack quickly and effectively so that you can recover from it as soon as possible. For this reason, it’s essential that you are well-prepared for any potential heart attack by having 9 vital items ready at all times. Here are the top 9 things you need to have ready for a heart attack.

Know your symptoms

If you recognize any of these warning signs, you’re probably having a heart attack: chest pain, pressure, or discomfort; pain in other areas of your body (such as your back, neck, jaw, or arms); shortness of breath; and breaking out in a cold sweat. These symptoms can also indicate other ailments, so don’t assume that because you have one symptom that it has to be a heart attack. The key is knowing which symptom(s) is/are most prominent.

Know your risk factors

Some people are more likely than others to experience a heart attack. If you have any of these risk factors, talk with your doctor about what steps you can take to prevent one in the future: high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, history of smoking or tobacco use, family history of early heart disease or heart attack.

Know how to call 911

If you have health insurance, now is a good time to go over your options and see which hospital is in your network. Don’t wait until you need it! Make sure that your family members know how to call 911 (or 112 in Europe) when something happens. If there’s no response from you within one minute of calling, they should also call 911 or 112.

Carry an AED card

If you or someone you know is at risk of heart attack, make sure you have an AED (automated external defibrillator) in your car. If a member of your family has been diagnosed with heart problems, get one installed in their home as well. These portable devices are used by first responders and emergency room doctors; once trained on how to use them, anyone can operate an AED.

Learn CPR

In an emergency, seconds count. Knowing CPR is as important as knowing how to stop bleeding. Make sure you know both; these life-saving skills could save someone’s life one day. Take a class if you can, and check out YouTube videos if there isn’t time or opportunity (e.g., your schedule, location).

Keep a first aid kit in your car

The best way to prevent damage during an attack is by taking preventive measures, including keeping first aid kits in your home and car. First aid kits should contain bandages, gauze pads, burn ointment, scissors and a blood pressure monitor; they should also include medication you might need—including nitroglycerin tablets and aspirin. Nitroglycerin can help prevent heart failure following an attack; aspirin will help reduce blood clots.

Be ready to administer nitroglycerin under the tongue

Nitroglycerin is a medicine that’s used right after an acute heart attack. It works by opening up blood vessels and improving blood flow to your heart. If you’re having chest pain, it can be lifesaving. But many people aren’t prepared for when (not if) it will happen. If you know someone who has had heart problems or is at risk of heart disease, it may be useful to buy some nitroglycerin and make sure they know how to use it.

Own an AED machine (ideally) or keep it nearby. (Defibrillator)

Having an AED machine within your home or office could save someone’s life if they suddenly suffer from a heart attack. An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a device that delivers an electric shock to someone in cardiac arrest, effectively returning their heart to normal rhythm. If you aren’t sure how exactly AED machines work, search online for how to use an AED machine—you can learn how easy they are to operate.

Ask others who have had a heart attack what helped them survive

Finding out what worked best after a heart attack can help you be prepared and know what to do if you ever have one. Contact someone you know who’s experienced heart problems—or start with your doctor or nurse. Many hospitals offer cardiac rehabilitation programs for patients who have had heart attacks or other heart issues, so you may be able to find a patient there who is willing to share his or her story.

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