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Departments > Fire > First Aid Tips > Heart Attack

Fire Department

First Aid Tips

Heart Attack

Signals of a Heart Attack

  • Persistent chest pain or discomfort: Victim may have persistent pressure, squeezing, or crushing type pain in the chest that is not relieved by resting, changing positions, or medication.
  • Pain may spread to jaw, neck, or arms
  • Difficulty breathing: Victim may feel short of breath or is breathing faster than normal.
  • Abnormal skin appearance: Victim's skin may be pale, ashen (gray), or bluish in color. Victim's skin may also feel cool and moist.
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or fainting
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
Note: Not all of these signals occur in every heart attack. If you are with someone having these "signals", expect denial.  Insist on calling 911.

Care for a Heart Attack

Recognize the signals of a heart attack.
  • Remain calm (you'll do great!).
  • Have the victim stop activity and rest comfortably (place them in a position of comfort).
  • Quickly confirm information about the victim's current condition (awake? breathing? symptoms?).
  • Call 911 immediately.
  • Answer all of the 911 Dispatcher's questions as accurately as possible.
  • Closely follow any instructions given by the 911 Dispatcher.
  • Do not hang up until the 911 Dispatcher says to.
  • Stay with and reassure the victim.
  • Assist with medication, if prescribed for the victim.
  • Monitor the victim's condition closely.
  • Be prepared to give CPR, if necessary.
  • (Please know, that no matter what the outcome, you did the best you could.)

Five Steps of CPR

Make sure you and the scene are SAFE

  • ASSESS:  Shout and tap or gently shake. If victim is unresponsive, call 911.
  • POSITION:  Place victim on their back, remove pillows from behind the head, open the airway using head-tilt/chin-lift method.
  • CHECK FOR BREATHING: Look, Listen, and Feel for five seconds. If victim is not breathing, give two slow breaths.
  • CHECK FOR SIGNS OF CIRCULATION: Look for movement, breathing or improvement in skin color for five to ten seconds. If victim has no signs of circulation, begin chest compressions. Chest compressions are more effective if the victim is on a solid surface like the floor, not on a bed or sofa.
  • RECHECK FOR SIGNS OF CIRCULATION:  After one minute, if there are still no signs of circulation, continue cycles uninterrupted until medical help arrives.
Note: If for whatever reason you are uncomfortable with mouth-to-mouth breathing, at the very least do chest compressions until help arrives.

  Adult Child Infant
HAND POSITION:  Two hands on lower half of sternum  One hand on lower half of sternum  Two fingers on lower half of sternum (one finger width below nipple line)
COMPRESS:  1-1/2 to 2 inches  1 to 1-1/2 inches  1/2 to 1 inch
BREATHE:  Slowly until chest gently rises  Slowly until chest gently rises  Slowly until chest gently rises
CYCLE:  15 compressions and 2 breaths  5 compressions and 1 breath  5 compressions and 1 breath
RATE: 15 compressions in about 10 seconds 5 compressions in about 3 seconds 5 compressions in about 3 seconds

How to Reduce Your Risk of a Heart Attack

There are several ways to reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke. Following this advice could save your life (or the life of someone you love).
  • Don't smoke cigarettes and avoid Inhaling the smoke of others. Cigarette smoking is the most important single cause of preventable death in the United States.
  • Exercise regularly.  Participate in continuous, vigorous physical activity for at least 20 to 30 minutes (or more) at least three times a week
  • Maintain proper weight and eat nutritious food in moderate amounts.  Eat a well-balanced diet that's low in cholesterol and saturated fats, and moderate in sodium (salt).  Fatty foods contribute to atherosclerosis which is a major contributor to heart attacks.  Eating too much sodium can also cause high blood pressure in some people.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly and have regular medical check-ups.  Uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the heart and other organs.