If you’re concerned that you or a loved one is having a heart attack, stop reading this article right now, and call 911. Minutes can save lives in these situations. Even if you’re not sure, it’s better to call and get help rather than wait.

If you’re reading this article so you know what to do if you’re having a heart attack and can act fast if the time comes, you’re doing the right thing. Our haste at the beginning of this article wasn’t misplaced. Knowing what to do at the onset of symptoms can make a huge difference.

What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack, or a myocardial infarction, occurs when there’s a blockage in the heart that prevents oxygen-rich blood from entering it. Heart attacks become more likely as plaque builds up in your arteries, or as atherosclerosis progresses. This is because the buildup of plaque can tear the inside of an artery and cause a blood clot to form on top of the plaque. The clot can block oxygenated blood from traveling through the artery.

If this blockage persists, the tissue of the heart will begin to die. The longer the blockage remains, the more damage is done to the tissue. This is why reacting to the signs of a myocardial infarction quickly is essential.

How Do You Know If You’re at Risk for One?

A sign you may be at risk for a heart attack is angina, chest pain caused by a partial artery blockage. This pain may feel like pressure, burning, or discomfort in your chest. It may also manifest in the shoulders, neck, or back. Usually, the discomfort will go away on its own, but you should still contact your doctor if you experience this type of pain.

What Are the Signs of a Heart Attack?

There are some general heart attack signs to watch for. The most notable sign is chest discomfort. Much like angina, it can be painful or feel like pressure or fullness. It can also spread to other parts of your upper body. You may also experience a shortness of breath or nausea. These symptoms may be intense at first or start mild and grow. Signs may last minutes, hours, or days, but the sooner you receive help, the better.

It’s important to note, indicators of a heart attack can differ for women. In fact, one might even be harder to identify in females. For many women, chest pain doesn’t always occur during a myocardial infarction. In fact, some women have even thought they had the flu or acid reflux. If you are experiencing the other symptoms, as well as fatigue and cold sweats, call 911.

What Should You Do If You’re Having a Heart Attack?

If you think you’re having heart attack, contact 911 immediately. Whoever is helping you will be able to give you first aid instructions to follow before an ambulance arrives. If you’re the one experiencing symptoms, do not drive yourself to the hospital if you can avoid doing so. That should only be your last resort, since you’d be placing yourself and others on the road at risk.

One way to maximize your chances of surviving is to chew an aspirin, unless you’re allergic to it. Aspirin acts as a blood thinner, which can prevent the blockage from getting larger. Chewing the aspirin, instead of swallowing it, helps the blood thinner act quicker. Beyond that, try to keep calm, breath, and wait for the ambulance.

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Heart attacks can be terrifying and can strike suddenly. That’s why it’s extremely important to know what to do when one occurs and how to identify the symptoms. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you are showing the signs of a myocardial infarction, call 911. Don’t wait. Minutes can save your life.