Health Watch -- Call 911

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The faster you get treatment for a heart attack, the better your chances for survival. But do you know what to do to get the fastest treatment?

If you or someone near you had a heart attack, do you know what you should do first? According to researchers, your first instinct may be wrong. Many people have someone drive them to the emergency room when they experience chest pains, thinking they'll get there sooner than if they have to wait for an ambulance. They're right about that.

People who went straight to the hospital got there an average of four minutes faster than people who called 911. But the people who called 911 actually got life-saving treatment much faster - in about six minutes -- compared to the patients who got themselves to the hospital, who had to wait about 30 minutes.

That's because emergency personnel have a sort of mini emergency room in their ambulances. They can start lifesaving treatment and consult with doctors, even before they get on the road to the hospital. They can also make sure a patient gets seen faster once they reach the hospital.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say you shouldn't delay if you have chest pain or other heart attack symptoms. Every minute that passes decreases your chance for survival and recovery. Dr. Ellen Keeley, a UT Southwestern cardiologist, says any delay reduces the effectiveness of treatments like angioplasty, which reopens blocked arteries. The sooner you get that treatment, the better your chance for recovery without complications.

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