If someone is having a heart attack, immediate medical assistance typically within an hour of the attack increases the patient’s chances of survival by three times.
For those of you who don’t know: Most heart attacks are caused by a blood clot that blocks one of the coronary arteries. And since the coronary arteries bring blood and oxygen to the heart, if the blood flow is blocked, the heart is starved of oxygen and heart cells die.
When you witness someone having a heart attack, your best bet is to take them to the hospital within an hour after symptoms start.
Reader’s Digest gives us nine common signs of a heart attack to help determine whether someone is having a heart attack and what to do next. Note: the patient may not necessarily experience all of the following:
1. Suddenly feels faint or dizzy
2. Severe chest pain (persistent and vice-like, spreading up to the jaw and down one or both arms) that does not subside when the patient rests
3. Discomfort high in the abdomen (may feel like severe indigestion)
4. Breathlessness (patient may be gasping for air)
5. Fear (feels an impending sense of doom)
6. Pale, grey, clammy, or sweaty skin
7. Rapid, weak, and irregular pulse
8. Collapses, often without warning
9. Possible loss of consciousness
If the patient is conscious, here’s what you should do:
1. Ease strain on the heart
Keep the patient in a comfortable, half-sitting position, with his head and shoulders well supported and knees bent to ease strain on the heart. Loosen clothing at the neck, chest and waist.
2. Call for emergency medical assistance
Keep bystanders away from the patient. Avoid crowding around the patient.
3. Give angina medication
If the patient has medication for angina, help him to take it. Keep him calm and encourage him to rest.
4. Give aspirin
If the patient is fully conscious, give him a full-dose (300 mg) aspirin tablet. Tell him to chew it slowly so that it dissolves and is absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly when it reaches the stomach.
Aspirin helps to break down blood clots, minimizing muscle damage during a heart attack.
5. Monitor patient
Regularly check and make a note of consciousness, breathing, and pulse.
1. Open airway
Check for breathing and be prepared to begin CPR.
2. Use an AED (automated external defibrillator)
AEDs deliver a shock to correct an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation, which is the cause of some heart attacks.
Here’s an example of an AED:
Attach the pads as indicated on the machine; the machine will then talk the operator through the process. An AED will only deliver a shock if the patient’s condition indicates that it is necessary. If you have attached an AED to a patient, leave the machine switched on at all times and leave the pads attached, even if the patient recovers.
3. Wait for emergency medical assistance
A diagnosis will be confirmed at the hospital with an electrocardiogram (ECG) and blood tests. Advanced care may include a stay in the intensive care unit and treatment with drugs or even surgery. The aim is to minimize pain, restore blood supply to the damaged heart muscle, and prevent complications.
In case of angina
If the pain subsides after the person rests for a few minutes, it is likely that it is an angina attack. This is a long-term condition in which the coronary (heart) arteries are narrowed, so that the heart muscle cannot get enough blood to meet its demands. Someone diagnosed with angina will have medication to use in case of an attack.
1. Keep patient calm; sit them down.
2. Assist with medication
Help the patient find the medication (usually a tablet or spray). If necessary, help them take it. If a patient has no medication at hand, call for emergency help immediately.
3. Keep watch
The attack should ease within a few minutes. If the pain does not ease or the person has no medication, treat as a heart attack.
The New York Times notes that strong emotions are common after a heart attack. It is common to feel sad, anxious, and worried about being careful with everything you do. These feelings are normal, and tend to last about two or three weeks. Furthermore, the patient may feel tired after leaving the hospital.
According to the NHS, your risk of developing CHD is increased by:
2. High-fat diet
6. Being overweight or obese
Prevention is better than cure. Living a healthier lifestyle can significantly reduce risks of a heart attack.