Heart attacks are caused by a complete or partial blockage to the artery supplying the heart muscle with oxygen. Without this vital oxygen the heart begins to die, which leads to considerable pain, and sadly death. There are around 124,000 heart attacks in the UK every year, which leads to one person dying from a heart attack every six minutes. Although the condition is often complicated you can still take measures to buy time and potentially save the life of your spouse, best friend or complete stranger in the street.
Buying time for a heart attack victim is critical. If you can detect the symptoms quickly and transfer the casualty to the emergency services, then those quick actions might just be the difference between life and death. The main symptom you should look out for is a person complaining of a central chest pain radiating between the abdomen and the jaw, and in some cases down one arm. They may also complain of a crushing feeling on or around the chest, much like having a heavy weight sitting on it.
At this stage it is vital to make the call to the emergency services, and clearly state the symptoms and your location. By doing so you may be able to pre-empt cardiac arrest, and buy the casualty vital lifesaving minutes. If you are unsure if you are dealing with a heart attack then other symptoms include a blue / grey appearance in the skin, severe indigestion and nausea.
There will inevitably be a time gap where the casualty requires treatment prior to the arrival of the emergency services. The objective in the case of a heart attack is to rest the heart and reduce the pressure that is being placed upon it. In order to do this it is important to place the casualty in a half sitting position, with their legs raised so the body forms a ‘W’ shape. This enhances circulation, and reduces stress on the heart muscle.
The ambulance is already on the way so the next few minutes should be spent loosening any tight clothing, and reassuring the casualty to keep them calm. It is also essential that you check for regular breathing by looking (at the chest) feeling their breaths and listening for their breathing. Any emergency first aid course will teach these vital lifesaving skills. If at any time the casualty stops breathing it is essential to commence CPR, regardless of how far away the emergency services are.
One in three people who have a heart attack in the UK die before reaching hospital. This is often caused by a complete blockage in heart’s own oxygen supply, which results in the electrical rhythm closing off. Aspirin has been proven to slow down the clotting process, and ultimately buy a heart attack victim vital minutes before the arrival of professional help. The downside is that you can only administer aspirin if you are fully confident that the casualty is not allergic to the drug, does not have a stomach ulcer and is not on any other clot prevention drugs like Warfarin. It is a big list of do not’s, but in some cases you will have the answer to these questions. If this is the case the aspirin can be crushed up on a spoon and dissolved under the tongue of the casualty.
Heart attacks are deadly serious, and quite often there is nothing we can do to stop their destructive path. However by keeping calm and by applying the treatments in this article some lives can be saved. If you ever come across someone displaying the symptoms of a heart attack then it is time to think on your feet. There is no need to wait for others as you know the skills that could prove the difference.