Truckee Chief’s Corner: What to do if you think you’re having a heart attack |

Truckee Chief’s Corner: What to do if you think you’re having a heart attack

A brief look at how your heart works.
Courtesy Truckee Fire |

Over 375,000 people die each year from heart attacks, also referred to in the medical world as acute coronary syndromes.

These are situations where blood flow is suddenly blocked from getting to the heart muscle. These blockages can be complete or partial and affect a small part of the heart muscle or a big section.

Blockages are often blood clots. Clots develop when the coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood become thicker and harder from buildup of fat, cholesterol and plaque. This is a sudden medical emergency and you should recognize the warning signs from the American Heart Association.

Below are a few warning signs:

• Chest pain or discomfort that may involve pressure, tightness or fullness — if it lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

• Pain or discomfort in both arms, your back, neck, jaw or stomach.

• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

• Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or feeling dizzy or light-headed.

If you or someone you are with has chest pain or other symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately!

Unfortunately, it is natural to think “it is not happening to me,” which can delay important time sensitive treatment. Chest pain is a symptom that the heart is not getting oxygen, and each minute that goes by may mean the heart is being irreversibly damaged.

Calling 9-1-1 is not overreacting and is the recommended action. The paramedics will be able to provide some immediate treatment and use an ECG (electrocardiogram) to determine the best appropriate care.

Paramedics are able to provide life-saving drugs, as well as transmit the ECG to the emergency room doctor at Tahoe Forest Hospital to help decide on the best care for patients suffering a possible heart attack.

Although chest pain does not always mean that you are having a heart attack, we take it seriously, and so should you. Go to for more information about warning signs and prevention tips.

Bill Seline is the chief at the Truckee Fire Protection District. Visit to learn more.

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