There are no ways to stop a heart attack yourself, but prompt medical treatment is the best way to prevent heart damage. Anyone who suspects they are having a heart attack should call 911 straight away.

A lack of blood to the heart causes a heart attack. It can be fatal. However, quick action will give treatment the best chance of working. While there are no effective ways to immediately stop a heart attack, there are many ways to prevent a heart attack.

This article will explore whether a person can stop a heart attack if they believe they are having one. It will also take a look at prevention methods, explain treatment options, and describe the symptoms of a heart attack.

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It is not possible to stop a heart attack if one is already in progress. The only way to stop a heart attack is to seek emergency medical attention.

Some people say that coughing will help to stop a heart attack by keeping the blood flowing. However, the American Heart Association does not endorse this method.

Anyone who suspects they or someone they are with is having a heart attack should act fast by taking the following steps:

1. Call 911

Emergency medical services (EMS) are the fastest, safest way to get access to emergency medical attention. These include ambulance and paramedic services.

Even if a person is not completely sure whether they are having a heart attack, they should call 911 right away.

2. Take an aspirin

The EMS may recommend the person take an aspirin. This can limit the amount of damage a heart attack can do to the heart.

However, some people may be allergic to aspirin. People should speak to a medical professional to become aware of any potential risks.

3. Take any prescribed chest pain medication

If the person already takes medicine for chest pain, they should take it, or make sure they have already taken it, while they wait for the ambulance.

Medications that doctors might have prescribed for chest pain include:

  • nitrates, such as Imdur
  • beta-blockers, such as Metoprolol, Carvedilol, or Atenolol

4. Open the door

If the person is indoors and with another person, that companion should unlock and open the front door. This will allow the ambulance team to enter the property as quickly as possible when they arrive.

5. Rest in a comfortable position and wait for the ambulance to arrive

Resting will relieve pressure on the heart as it tries to pump blood around the body.

This may involve sitting or lying down, depending on which feels more restful.

If someone is on their own when they think they are having a heart attack, they should call 911 right away and follow the advice of the call handler.

6. Loosen tight clothing

Loosening tight clothing, such as neckties or belts, should make it easier for a person to breathe.

Looser clothes also make it easier for EMS to assess the person.

The following behavioral changes could help lower the risk of someone having a heart attack:

Consume a healthful diet

Eating a healthful, balanced diet can help reduce a person’s chances of having a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, a healthful diet may include:

  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • legumes
  • nuts
  • lean animal proteins
  • fish

A person should also limit their intake of processed meats, refined carbohydrates, and sweetened drinks.

Learn more about a healthful cardiac diet here.

Partake in physical activity

Being physically active will also help to prevent a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, adults should try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week when possible.

Adults who are already active can increase their activity levels to give themselves even better prevention against heart attacks.

Maintain a moderate weight

Maintaining a moderate weight can play a big role in preventing a heart attack.

A person can check how much they should weigh for their height and age, and can reduce or increase their calorie intake and exercise levels as necessary.

Learn more about how to find the ideal weight for a person here.

Avoid smoking

If applicable, a person should stop smoking. Smoke from tobacco products like cigarettes or vapes, as well as secondhand smoke, can put a person at greater risk of a heart attack.

Learn some helpful tips on how to quit smoking here.

Treat other health conditions

Managing other health conditions that can increase the risk of a heart attack is another way to prevent heart attacks. These conditions may include:

Get enough sleep

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), getting the right amount of sleep can help reduce the risk of health conditions that can lead to heart attacks, such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

Most adults aged 18–60 need 7 or more hours of sleep per night.

Drink enough water

Drinking plenty of water will help a person avoid dehydration. Dehydration can lead to a heart attack.

How much water a person should drink each day can vary according to many factors, like height, weight, age, and sex.

Learn more about how much water a person should drink each day here.

The signs and symptoms of a heart attack can be different for males and females.

In females

Females may experience the following symptoms before a heart attack:

Learn more about symptoms of a heart attack in females here.

In males

Males may experience the following symptoms before a heart attack:

In older adults

Symptoms may be different in older adults. They may not experience symptoms at all.

Find out more about heart attack symptoms in elderly people here.

Anyone who thinks they or someone they are with is having a heart attack should call 911 immediately.

The sooner someone having a heart attack gets to the hospital, the sooner doctors can start treatment. Early treatment can help reduce damage to the heart and increases a person’s chances of surviving.

Sometimes, a heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest. This means the heart stops beating. People in cardiac arrest lose consciousness. It is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Doctors will attempt to restore the blood flow to the heart. The right treatment will depend on the person. It might include:

Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)

During a percutaneous coronary intervention, cardiologists use a thin tube with a balloon on the end to open up the blocked or narrowed arteries.

They usually thread the tube, or catheter, up to the heart through a blood vessel in the wrist or the groin. Once it is in place, they inflate the balloon to widen the artery.

Learn more about PCIs here.


Sometimes, the cardiologist will put a small metal tube, or stent, inside the artery to keep it open. This tends to happen during a PCI.

Learn more about stents here.

Thrombolytic medicines

Thrombolytic medicines work by dissolving blood clots in the arteries.

According to the CDC, someone has a heart attack in the United States every 40 seconds. Doctors call a heart attack a myocardial infarction.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common cause of a heart attack.

A heart attack happens when a blockage in a coronary artery stops blood from getting to the heart. When the artery is completely blocked, doctors call it an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). When it is only partially blocked, they call it a non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI).

Learn about STEMIs and NSTEMIs here.

Every part of the body needs a constant supply of blood. Blood contains all the oxygen and nutrients the cells need to maintain and repair themselves. Without it, parts of the heart tissue start to die, causing permanent damage.

A blocked coronary artery causes a heart attack. It stops blood from getting to the heart and can be very dangerous.

The quicker doctors are able to restore the blood supply to the heart, the better the chance the person has of surviving. That is why it is so important to call 911 straight away.

There is nothing anyone can do to stop a heart attack when it is happening.

However, there are things people can do to help avoid having a heart attack in the first place. These include eating healthy, being physically active, not smoking, and getting plenty of sleep.