Nearly 90-percent of Americans who suffer a heart attack outside of the hospital this year will die, but what’s worse is that less than half of them will receive appropriate first aid. Experts know that getting help while waiting for professional responders to arrive can double or even triple the chance of survival, so if someone is having symptoms of a heart attack like shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and pain in their chest, shoulders, jaws or arms, taking these five steps may save their life.

Call for Emergency Medical Services Immediately

When symptoms occur, don’t delay — call for an ambulance immediately. First responders are trained to initiate life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital, and in some areas, an ECG — a reading of the electrical activity in the heart — can be taken en route and read by a doctor before the patient reaches the emergency room door.

If an ambulance is not available, drive the patient to the nearest hospital. A heart attack can cause loss of consciousness, so it’s best not to let them drive.


Chest pain and shortness of breath mean the victim isn’t getting enough blood flow to the heart muscle. Resting reduces its workload.

Chew and Swallow a Tablet of Aspirin

Aspirin inhibits the growth of clots that obstruct blood flow to the heart. Chewing a regular strength tablet releases it into the bloodstream faster, where it starts working in as little as five minutes. Swallowing the same tablet whole takes almost fifteen minutes to have the same effect.

Take Nitroglycerin

Administering nitroglycerin widens the coronary arteries and improves blood flow to the heart, but it should only be given if prescribed because, in some circumstances, it could make the situation worse.

Start CPR

If the victim has no pulse, begin CPR. Those without training can be instructed on how to perform chest compressions by emergency personnel over the phone. Send someone for an automated external defibrillator, or AED, if available, but don’t stop CPR in the meantime.

Surviving a heart attack is a race against time. When someone having a heart attack gets care within an hour, the odds of a good outcome increase significantly, and that makes bystanders the first and perhaps most critical responders.