It’s easy for women to assume “There’s no way it’s a heart attack!” and “That could never happen to me!” But the sad truth is, it could. Below are answers to a few common questions that can help you determine what a heart attack feels like and what to do if you are unsure – just in case it does happen to you.
Q: What will my pulse feel like during a heart attack?
A: A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die. Here’s where it gets (more) complicated. Depending on the type of heart attack you are having and where the blockage occurs, your heart rate may be slower or faster than normal. As a result, you may not be able to determine whether you are having a heart attack from your heart rate or pulse. If you think something is wrong, the best thing to do is to call 9-1-1 and follow the operator’s instructions.
Q: Should I take aspirin during a heart attack?
A: Aspirin thins the blood and helps prevent blood clots from forming, and can therefore help during a heart attack. In fact, research shows that getting an aspirin early in the treatment of a heart attack, along with other treatments EMTs and Emergency Department physicians provide, can significantly improve your chances of survival. It’s important, however, to first call 9-1-1. Aspirin won’t treat your heart attack by itself, so don’t take it, wait for pain relief, and then take action. Call 9-1-1, listen to the operator’s instructions, and if he or she tells you to take aspirin, have him or her make sure you don’t have an allergy or a condition that makes using it too risky.
Note: Taking aspirin isn’t advised during a stroke. Because most strokes are caused by clots (or in some cases, ruptured blood vessels) taking aspirin can make bleeding strokes more severe.