CPR Certification

Heart Attacks – Symptoms And Treatments

According to the American Heart Association, 475,000 people die from cardiac arrest every year. The most common signal of a heart attack is persistent chest pain that lasts more than 5 minutes. The pain can be intermittent and if untreated can last for several hours. The chest pain is at times described as pressure, aching, tightness or squeezing. There are other symptoms but not limited to discomfort in other parts of the upper body such as the shoulder, neck, arm, jaw, stomach or back. Trouble breathing is another signal, often experienced as faster breathing, noisy breathing and feeling short of breath. Some people become pale or ashen in their face. Others begin sweating heavily, become lightheaded, disoriented, and vomit.
Because the signals can vary, it?s not uncommon for a person who has previously had a heart attack to not realize they are having another one. However, since a heart attack can be life threatening, be proactive in getting help. Any unexplained pain in the upper body that persists should be taken seriously.

If the chest or upper body pain disappears and doesn?t come back, this may be a sign of angina. Angina is a temporary blockage of blood to the heart through an artery. This may be a signal of heart disease and is worth a visit to your doctor.

Responding to a Heart Attack

Many people do not know the signals of a heart attack and will deny they are having one. They will claim they are experiencing bad indigestion, heartburn, muscle spasms or muscle soreness. Almost half of all people experiencing a heart attack wait two hours or more before seeking medical help. Most people who die of a heart attack die within two hours of experiencing their first signals.

If you think someone is having a heart attack, the most important thing you can do is to get help. Call 911 or the emergency number appropriate to you. The priority is to get professionals with their equipment and drugs to get to the victim as soon as possible. Do not drive the victim to the hospital yourself ? their condition could quickly change for the worse.

Have the person rest comfortably. Sitting is often the most comfortable position. Loosen any tight clothing, especially clothing that constricts breathing.

Ask the person if they have a history of heart disease. If they have a prescribed medication for chest pain associated with heart disease, assist them in taking it.

Aspirin helps slow blood clotting, which can help to keep blood flowing through a coronary artery during a heart attack. If the person is not allergic to aspirin, isn?t taking blood thinners like Coumadin, and hasn?t been told by their doctor not to take aspirin, give them 2 to 4 chewable baby aspirins (81 mg each) or one adult aspirin (325 mg) with a small amount of water. Do not offer them Tylenol or anti-inflamatory drugs such as Motrin, Aleve, Advil or ibuprofen.

Monitor the person?s condition and notice any changes in behavior or appearance. Information that you can provide to the responding emergency medical personnel may be helpful. If you know CPR, be prepared to do it. If an AED (automated external defibrillator) is available, bring it to where the victim is, and be prepared to use it if necessary.

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