A heart attack happens when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot.
Lots of people make a full recovery from a heart attack, but there’s a serious risk that the heart might stop beating – called a cardiac arrest.
It’s vital that you treat someone having a heart attack straight away, otherwise they could die.
People who have angina are more likely to have a heart attack. Angina happens when the arteries to the heart become narrow and the heart muscle can’t get enough blood. This can happen when someone’s doing a physical activity but is even more of a concern if it happens at rest.
Angina pain is usually a tight chest pain, which may ease if they rest straight away and take angina medication, and may only last a few minutes. If the pain lasts longer, presume it’s a heart attack.
A heart attack is life-threatening and it happens when your heart muscle is starved of oxygen-rich blood. As a result, this causes damage to your heart muscle. This serious medical emergency should be taken seriously and medical assistance should be sought.
Don’t delay – call 999
Then, help move them into the most comfortable position. The best position is on the floor leaning against a wall with knees bent and head and shoulders supported. This should ease the pressure on their heart and stop them hurting themselves if they collapse.
Give them a 300mg aspirin, if available and they’re not allergic, and tell them to chew it slowly.
Be aware that they may develop shock. Shock does not mean emotional shock, but is a life-threatening condition, which can be brought on by a heart attack.
Keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response.
If they lose responsiveness at any point, open their airway, check their breathing, and prepare to treat someone who has become unresponsive. You may need to do CPR.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can help save a life during a cardiac or breathing emergency. However, even after training, remembering the CPR steps and administering them correctly can be a challenge. In order to help you help someone in need, we’ve created this simple step-by-step guide that you can print up and place on your refrigerator, in your car, in your bag or at your desk.
Before Giving CPR
Check the scene and the person. Make sure the scene is safe, then tap the person on the shoulder and shout “Are you OK?” to ensure that the person needs help.
Call 911 for assistance. If it’s evident that the person needs help, call (or ask a bystander to call) 911, then send someone to get an AED. (If an AED is unavailable, or a there is no bystander to access it, stay with the victim, call 911 and begin administering assistance.)
Open the airway. With the person lying on his or her back, tilt the head back slightly to lift the chin.
Check for breathing. Listen carefully, for no more than 10 seconds, for sounds of breathing. (Occasional gasping sounds do not equate to breathing.) If there is no breathing begin CPR.
Red Cross CPR Steps
Push hard, push fast. Place your hands, one on top of the other, in the middle of the chest. Use your body weight to help you administer compressions that are at least 2 inches deep and delivered at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute.
Deliver rescue breaths. With the person’s head tilted back slightly and the chin lifted, pinch the nose shut and place your mouth over the person’s mouth to make a complete seal. Blow into the person’s mouth to make the chest rise. Deliver two rescue breaths, then continue compressions.
Note: If the chest does not rise with the initial rescue breath, re-tilt the head before delivering the second breath. If the chest doesn’t rise with the second breath, the person may be choking. After each subsequent set of 100 chest compressions, and before attempting breaths, look for an object and, if seen, remove it.
Continue CPR steps. Keep performing cycles of chest compressions and breathing until the person exhibits signs of life, such as breathing, an AED becomes available, or EMS or a trained medical responder arrives on scene.
Note: End the cycles if the scene becomes unsafe or you cannot continue performing CPR due to exhaustion.
The Signs of a Heart Attack
There are various symptoms of a heart attack and they vary from person to person. These are some of the most common signs:
- chest pain: tightness, pain or a burning feeling in your chest
- feeling light-headed
- shortness of breath
- pain in arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach
- feeling nauseous or vomiting
However, if you start feeling some of these symptoms or several signs at once, you have in fact only 10 seconds to save your own life. Do not forget, the first thing you should do is call an ambulance. Then, there is a simple method, which can help you save your life: cough CPR.
How to Prevent a Heart Attack
The most important thing you can do is try to prevent this life-threatening condition. For this reason, you should:
- Lose some weight if you are obese.
- Do regular physical exercises, at least 3 hours a week.
- Stop smoking.
- Consume a low-fat, high-fiber diet, fresh fruit, and vegetables.