What is a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to any part of the heart is cut off or blocked. During the attack, the muscles of the heart that do not get the blood supply get damaged. It can be life-threatening.

The intensity of the damage depends on the size of the area that is cut off from the blood supply and how fast treatment is administered to the patient. The damaged heart muscles can, at times, be healed. The rest of the heart can function even if the heart muscles remain dead after an attack.

Heart attacks are life-threatening emergencies. It is best to be prepared and educate your family members and friends about the steps to be taken in case such an emergency should arise.

Symptoms you need to be aware of

  • Chest discomfort in the nature of squeezing pain, feeling of fullness and pressure
  • Shortness of breath even when you’re relaxed
  • Cold sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Discomfort emanating from the vicinity of the heart like the neck, upper back, arms, shoulders and even stomach and jaws.

What to do when you or anyone else has these symptoms

  • Check if they are a known heart patient and see if they are carrying medicines for chest pain. If yes, immediately place one under their tongue.
  • Call an ambulance An ambulance is a wiser choice than other alternatives as medical treatment can start en route to the hospital in an ambulance.
  • While waiting for an ambulance, try to keep the patient calm and make him lie down.
  • If the patient is not allergic to aspirin, ask him to chew and swallow an aspirin.
  • If the patient becomes unconscious or stops breathing, perform a CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation). If you are not trained to perform a CPR then perform Compression-only CPR as follows:
    • Place the heel of one of your hands at the center of the patient’s chest and place your other hand over the first to start the chest compressions.
    • With your elbows erect, push down on the person’s chest using your upper body strength. Compressions should be at the rate of 100 compressions per minute
    • Do this until the ambulance arrives.

If the emergency numbers are unresponsive, drive the patient to the hospital. If you’re the one with the symptoms, ask your neighbors to drive you to the hospital. If you have no other choice, drive by yourself to the hospital. But, driving by yourself can put you and others at risk.

If you’re a heart patient or you have a condition that puts you at a higher risk of having a heart attack, create a comprehensive plan to be prepared in case of emergencies. Keep your friends and family informed about your medical condition, any allergies, medicines you take and your doctor’s number. You can also keep all this information in your wallet.

Even if you have the slightest doubt if you or anyone else may have a heart attack, do not hesitate to call for medical help. Delayed treatment lowers the chances of survival and increases damage to the heart.