Heart Attack: First Aid
Prompt treatment is crucial when a person is suffering from a heart attack. Unfortunately, an average person waits 3 hours before he seeks help after observing the symptoms of a heart attack and many patients die before they can even reach the hospital. A heart attack is a health emergency and you must seek immediate help; the sooner the patient reaches the hospital, the higher the chances of survival. If you think someone seems as if he or she is suffering from a heart attack, make sure you immediately call 911 or a local emergency number to seek help.
Causes and Symptoms
A person suffers from a heart attack when his or her blood vessels are obstructed and are thus unable to transfer blood to the heart. Blood carries oxygen which fuels many organs including the heart. Without a sufficient supply of oxygen, the heart muscle cannot properly function. This is what causes a heart attack.
Symptoms of a heart attack may vary according to the age, sex and history of illnesses of the person. Heart attacks may be mild or severe. Elderly people, women and people suffering from diabetes are prone to suffer from unusual symptoms of heart attacks.
Some of the symptoms in adults include:
- Mental status changes. This is usually observed in the elderly
- Chest pain. It will feel as if something is applying stress or pressure on or
squeezing the center of your chest or your heart. The sufferer will feel this pain at the center of his chest and sometimes in the jaw, arms, shoulder, stomach and back. The pain may come and go or last for a few minutes. If a person is suffering from a heart attack, you will see that his hand is holding or clutching his chest
- In women, nausea is common
- Cold sweat
- Numbness, pain or tingling, usually in the left arm
- Fatigue and weakness, particularly in the elderly
- Shortness of breath
Time is extremely essential during an emergency situation therefore, while you wait for help to arrive, take the following steps to ensure that the condition does not aggravate:
- Make the person relax, sit down and rest.
- If he is wearing tight clothes, loosen it by unbuttoning the shirt, removing the belt etc.
- If the person is already suffering from a heart problem then help him take the necessary medications his doctor has prescribed, for example, nitroglycerin.
- If the person is unconscious, call 911 or any local emergency number and begin CPR.
- If a child is unconscious or not responsive, call 911 after performing CPR for 1 minute.
- Do NOT:
- Leave the patient alone unless you have to call for medical help
- Wait for the symptoms to fade away
- Listen to the person if he denies the symptoms to prevent you from calling for help
- Make the person take anything by mouth unless prescribed by a doctor
To prevent heart problems such as heart attacks, it is necessary that adults take the required steps to eliminate the causative factors:
- Quit smoking. Studies have shown that people who smoke double their chances of suffering from heart disease.
- If you are obese or overweight, lose weight by exercising or controlling your diet. If you are prone to suffer from heart diseases, cut down on your fat and cholesterol intake by eliminating cheese, butter, red meat, fast food, sugars and oil from your diet. Resort to a diet which mainly consists of fruits, vegetables and whole grain products.
- Practice aerobic exercises to increase your cardiovascular endurance.
- Avoid drug or alcohol abuse. Have alcohol in moderate amounts. Having one glass of alcohol per day greatly reduces your chances of suffering from heart attacks.
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