How to Handle A Heart Attack When You Are Alone

A heart attack can happen at any time and it is not guaranteed that you will have people around you to call 911 and administer help. So what would you do if you experience heart attack-like symptoms while you’re all alone?

What Is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack is technically a malfunctioning of the heart that occurs when there is a reduction in the flow of blood to the heart muscles. When this happens, the flow of oxygen to the heart is blocked and if not attended to immediately, can impact the health of the heart muscles, sometimes fatally. It is said that treatments for a heart attack are most effective when administered as soon as symptoms occur.

The flow of oxygen to the heart is hampered because of the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Over a period of time, the build-up becomes so severe that the arteries supplying oxygen to the heart become completely blocked. This condition is called atherosclerosis and if this blockage isn’t removed soon, it can lead to a heart attack.

Some of the risk factors for a heart attack include:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity/Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Unhealthy food habits
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diabetes
  • Age
  • Family history

While the last two risks are inevitable, you can ensure you keep the other factors under control by following a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and talking to your doctor about potential risks and prevention.

Common symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Pressure or pain in the chest, mostly in the center of the chest
  • Profuse sweating
  • Lightheadedness
  • Numbness or tingling in the left arm
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea (see in women)

How to Handle A Heart Attack When You Are Alone

Since a heart attack is not a predictable episode, it is necessary for you to be prepared. Here’s what you need to do if you experience heart-attack related symptoms while alone:

  • Call 911:

    This is the logical first step because paramedics can start basic treatment soon before you get to the hospital. This is crucial for preventing any major damage.

  • Remain calm:

    Try not to freak out even though it can be a scary experience. If you have managed to call 911, sit down and keep your nerves calm.

  • Do not exert:

    If you are feeling chest pain, numbness, etc. make sure you call 911 and sit down till they arrive. Do not exert yourself at all as it will only pressurize the heart more.

  • Take an aspirin:

    If you are not allergic to and have access to aspirin, take one. It is recommended to crush the pill and chew for faster assimilation.

  • Inform family/friends:

    If you are able to, inform a family member or friend about the episode so that they can come and help. For seniors that are living alone, it is always recommended to have quick access to the phone or a health alert system that can alert emergency services and a family member.

What You Should Not Do When Having a Heart Attack

  • Do not cough repeatedly, it is not recommended by doctors as it can put added pressure on the chest.
  • Do not apply direct pressure on the chest.

Whether the symptoms you feel are related to a heart attack or something minor, it is advisable to visit your doctor and go over the episode, your risks, and what you need to do to keep your heart healthy.


Hall, K. (2015, June 10). How to Survive a Heart Attack. Retrieved from

Heart Attack. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Heart Attack. (n.d.). Retrieved from