Call 911 or emergency medical help if you think you might be having a heart attack. Someone having a heart attack may have any or all of the following:
- Chest pain, pressure or tightness, or a squeezing or aching sensation in the center of the chest
- Pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, teeth or occasionally upper abdomen
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting
A heart attack generally causes chest pain for more than 15 minutes. Some people have mild chest pain, while others have more-severe pain. The discomfort is commonly described as a pressure or chest heaviness, although some people have no chest pain or pressure at all. Women tend to have more-vague symptoms, such as nausea or back or jaw pain.
Some heart attacks strike suddenly, but many people have warning signs hours or days in advance.
What to do if you or someone else may be having a heart attack
- Call 911 or your local emergency number. Don't ignore the symptoms of a heart attack. If you can't get an ambulance or emergency vehicle to come to you, have a neighbor or a friend drive you to the nearest hospital. Drive yourself only if you have no other option. Because your condition can worsen, driving yourself puts you and others at risk.
- Chew and swallow an aspirin while waiting for emergency help. Aspirin helps keep your blood from clotting. When taken during a heart attack, it could reduce heart damage. Don't take aspirin if you are allergic to it or have been told by your health care provider never to take aspirin.
- Take nitroglycerin, if prescribed. If you think you're having a heart attack and your health care provider has previously prescribed nitroglycerin for you, take it as directed while waiting for emergency medical help.
Begin CPR if the person is unconscious. If the person isn't breathing or you don't find a pulse, begin CPR to keep blood flowing after you call for emergency medical help.
Push hard and fast on the center of the person's chest in a fairly rapid rhythm — about 100 to 120 compressions a minute.
- If an automated external defibrillator (AED) is immediately available and the person is unconscious, follow the device instructions for using it.
June 29, 2022
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing!
You'll soon start receiving the latest Mayo Clinic health information you requested in your inbox.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
- Warning signs of a heart attack. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/warning-signs-of-a-heart-attack. Accessed Jan. 18, 2021.
- Heart attack. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-attack#. Accessed Jan. 18, 2021.
- Tamis-Holland JE, et al. Contemporary diagnosis and management of patients with myocardial infarction in the absence of obstructive coronary artery disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation; 2019. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000670.
- Panchal AR, et al. Part 3: Adult basic and advanced life support: 2020 American Heart Association guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiovascular care. Circulation; 2020. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000916.
- Hands-only CPR fact sheet. American Heart Association. https://cpr.heart.org/en/cpr-courses-and-kits/hands-only-cpr/hands-only-cpr-resources. Accessed Jan. 19, 2021.
- Lopez-Jimenez F (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. Feb. 4, 2021.