The truth is that nearly everyone spends at least some time alone. As we get older, many people live alone and, in a health emergency, this can be dangerous. Some people wear an emergency pendant which puts them in contact with emergency personnel, neighbors or relatives with the push of a button. Other people keep their cell phone in their pocket at all times. Those are both excellent ideas.
Every 60 seconds, someone in the U.S. dies of a heart attack. What should you do if you are alone and suspect that you are having a heart attack? How can you tell? These are important questions to ask, because 40 percent of heart attack victims never make it to the hospital.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Heart attack symptoms can be wide-ranging and vague. Below you will find common and uncommon symptoms. If you are in extreme discomfort or you are suffering from several of these symptoms, you should suspect a heart attack:
Chest pain (although 1/3 of patients do NOT have chest pain)
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, the shoulders, the neck, or the stomach (above the belly button)
Shortness of breath
Nausea and vomiting
The older you are, the more likely you are not to have chest pain, but have atypical symptoms, instead. Some of the atypical symptoms are:
Vague chest pressure
You may feel unwell for days or even weeks before experiencing the heart attack.
Self Help Tips for Heart Attack Victims
If you experience the above symptoms and you are alone, here are a list of the steps you should take to save yourself.
* Call 911 - It is important to get to the hospital within an hour.
* While you are waiting for an ambulance, chew and swallow a regular, uncoated 325 mg. aspirin.
* Unlock your doors so emergency personnel can get inside, in case you cannot open the door later.
* Sit down, but do not lie down; try to rest and relax while you wait.
* Call a neighbor, friend or relative and stay on the phone with them until help arrives. If they are close, ask them to come over and wait with you.
* Do NOT drive yourself to the hospital or have someone else drive you; ambulances have defibrillators and clot-busting medications. They will also be able to get help for you more quickly, once you reach the hospital.
* When the EMTs arrive, be ready to tell them what medications you are using and explain exactly what you are feeling.
* Be assertive. If you seem shy or reticent, studies show that you may wait longer to receive treatment. Speak up. Even if it turns out that you were not having a heart attack, but some other health problem instead, it is important to get checked out as soon as possible.
Want to learn more about common health issues as you age? Use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.
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Photo of heart model courtesy of morguefile.com