Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women today. Each year about 1.1 million Americans suffer heart attacks and about 460,000 of them die from it. Heart attack occurs when the blood flow that carries oxygen to the heart gets cut off. When one of the coronary arteries is blocked by blood clots, the heart begins to starve for oxygen and its cells begin to die. While heart attack is usually prevalent among men and women who smoke and have a family history of coronary artery disease, there are many factors that trigger it such as having a high blood pressure and high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol or bad cholesterol, as it is usually called, in the body.
If someone around you is having a heart attack or you want to prepare yourself in the event it happens to someone you know, here are helpful ways to guide you.
Know the signs. Movies usually depict heart attacks by having the victim clutch his chest dramatically before falling down to the ground. Unfortunately, heart attacks are not always so in real life. Although chest pain is a common symptom, some manifestations happen so slowly that even the victims do not know that they are already having an attack so it is crucial for you to know and spot the signs right away. Most symptoms include: jaw pain, nausea, vomiting, general upper middle abdomen discomfort, heartburn or indigestion, left arm pain, upper back pain and overall feeling of malaise. Keep in mind that a victim may undergo just one or two of these symptoms and must be given medical attention right away no matter what.
Seek help. Staying focused and calm is critical when helping someone who had an attack. The last thing you want to do is aggravate the victim more by becoming nervous and hysterical. The first thing you have to do is call for help or bring the victim to the emergency room if there’s a hospital nearby immediately. You can either call 911 or your local emergency number. Be very coherent and try to give as much details as you can to help them locate you and the victim better.
While waiting for help. While waiting for medical help, you can alleviate some pain by helping the victim sit or lie down comfortably and help them loosen any tight clothing. If the victim is coherent, ask him if he or she is allergic to aspirin. If not, give him one to chew and swallow. Aspirin is known for its anti-coagulant properties and will help stop blood from clotting. You can also ask the victim if he/she takes any heart condition medication. If he/she does, help him/her to drink it. Help them stay calm while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
What to do in public. If you are in a public place, after calling 911 and helping the victim sit or lie down comfortably, ask someone to look for an automated external defibrillator or AED. AED is a portable electronic device used to normalize the heart and help it establish an effective rhythm. These devices are usually found in public places such as shopping malls, corporate and government offices, airports, restaurants, schools, hotels and casinos. It is very easy to use, especially if someone has background in first aid and CPR.
When victim is unconscious. In severe cases, a victim may lose consciousness and undergo cardiac arrest. If this happens, check the victim’s mouth, chest and pulse. Ask someone who is trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and have him/her administer CPR to the victim until help arrives. If no one is trained, you can still help by putting your palm on the lower section of the victim’s breastbone and press it firmly in hard and rhythmic thrusts.
Heart attacks need not be fatal. With immediate action and presence of mind, you can help increase a victim’s survival and ultimately, save his life.