Know heart attack signs, and get help fast

A man feels unwell and is short of breath. He calls 911 and later learns he had a heart attack.

Just days later, he is discharged with only minimal damage to his heart. His decision to call 911 saved his life.

The end of Heart Month has B.C. Ambulance Service reminding people that not all people experience heart attacks in the same way – and many don’t know they are having one until it is too late.

Chest pain is often the primary symptom of heart attack, but other secret signs are shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, sweating, heart palpitations, tiredness and lightheadedness.

Being aware of the symptoms and calling 911 if a heart attack is suspected can greatly improve survival rates, the ambulance service says in a release.

“A heart attack occurs when blockages in arteries restrict the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart.

“As blood flow stops, the heart cells start to die and cannot regenerate like other parts of the body,” said vice-president of medical programs Dr. William Dick.

“In these situations, it’s essential to save time and heart muscle. Getting a patient to the right care at the right time can be a matter of life and death.” So what should you do to if you suspect a heart attack?


•    Call 911 – BCAS call takers and paramedics can begin diagnosis and treatment right away.

•    Be aware of the symptoms of heart attack – not all patients experience the same symptoms.



•     Worry about false alarms – let paramedics and cardiologists make the call.

•    Drive yourself to hospital – this could slow your access to treatment and put others at risk if your condition worsens.

“As a paramedic, I’ve seen too many cases where patients have waited too long to call 911. Paramedics are specially trained and have access to equipment that allows us to diagnose a heart attack and begin treatment right at the patient’s side,” said paramedic Julien Ponsioen.

“Once we arrive at hospital, vital information is relayed to cardiologists so they have a better idea where to start looking for blocked arteries, and can treat patients faster.”

BCAS operates under the authority of BC Emergency Health Services to provide residents and health care professionals with access to pre-hospital emergency and patient transfer services.

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