A heart attack can lead to Sudden Cardiac Arrest, the most common cause of death in the United Kingdom. This week, we celebrated Restart a Heart Day. It is a day dedicated to the awareness of CPR training. CPR or ‘Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation’ is used when the heart has gone into cardiac arrest. Although a heart attack is not the same as cardiac arrest, it is very serious. It signals that the heart is in serious trauma, meaning that it may stop at any time. Knowing the main heart attack symptoms allows you to seek treatment earlier. The earlier a patient receives treatment, the higher their chance of survival is.
What Causes a Heart Attack?
A heart attack is caused by a blockage or restriction of blood to the heart. It results in a starvation of oxygenated blood to the heart and body, which then causes the trauma we mentioned above. Blockages are more common in arteries that have been narrowed by a build-up of plaque, which is made up of cholesterol particles. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise contribute to high cholesterol, which is why it is so important to live a healthy lifestyle.
Never Delay Treatment
One of the biggest problems when dealing with a heart attack is that people brush off common heart attack symptoms as something else. Many of the earlier signs can easily be explained away as something minor. Therefore, treatment is delayed and more damage is done. By spotting the signs early, you may be able to provide the patient with the best chance of recovery.
Heart Attack Symptoms
One of the first things that people experience during a heart attack is chest pain. Although this seems like an obvious warning sign, many still discount it. Not all heart attacks start with a severe gripping pain in your chest. It can feel like indigestion, which it is commonly mistaken for. However, the pain can swiftly radiate from your neck to your jaw and down one arm – usually your left.
Dizziness and nausea can swiftly follow. Again, many people shirk this off as the beginnings of a virus. Someone experiencing a heart attack may display signs of becoming pale grey and will often have sweaty skin. These signs are often accompanied by other symptoms including difficulty in breathing and a rapid, irregular pulse. Many of the symptoms above mirror those associated with other conditions; such as indigestion, stress or a panic attack. Yet, they are signs that your body is imploring you to get help. Do not ignore them. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
First Aid for Heart Attacks
If someone is experiencing heart attack symptoms, it is crucial that you immediately contact the Emergency Medical Services. Whilst you wait for their arrival, it is important that you try to keep the patient calm. Loosen clothing and place them in a position where their back is against a flat surface, such as a wall, and their knees are raised with feet flat on the floor. If the patient can speak, ask them if they have medication for angina. If so, assist them to take it. Also, ask if they are allergic to aspirin, or if they’ve been prescribed any blood-thinning medication. If not allergic and you have some at hand, advise them that chewing ONE 300mg aspirin tablet can be useful for adults. Whilst you are doing this, be sure that you are monitoring their vital signs, particularly breathing and circulation.
When is CPR required?
We mentioned above that we recently celebrated Restart a Heart Day, to help train more people in CPR. This is because, during cardiac arrest, any time that the body spends without oxygen lessens a person’s chance of survival. Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops, which can happen at any time during a heart attack. If a person’s heart attack symptoms have become so severe that they fall unconscious and stop breathing, it is time to perform CPR. It is important to remember that in a case of cardiac arrest, CPR, on its own, will not ‘restart’ the heart. If possible, obtain an AED unit to deliver a shock, but do not leave the patient to go looking for one. The EMS will have one when they arrive.
Recognising common heart attack symptoms is crucial in getting a person early access to medical treatment. Delaying treatment increases the chance of the patient falling into cardiac arrest. Unfortunately, 60% of the UK population has not been trained in CPR which means many people die needlessly as a result of this lack of training. We want to change this. Learning how to effectively carry out CPR and use AED units, come as part of our training courses. Every workplace should have a person with these skills, should the worst happen. It is a vital part of keeping your employees safe.