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 Emergency & First Aid: Heart Attack: First Aid for Heart Attack - Emergency Conditions 
 

Heart Attack


A heart attack happens when the heart does not get enough blood supply for a period of time. Part or all of the heart muscle dies.



Signs & Symptoms

A heart attack may have warning signs. (See below). It can occur without signs, too. This is called a "silent" heart attack.



Causes

  • The most common cause is one or more blood clots that block an artery in the heart. Often, a blood clot forms in an artery already narrowed by plaque.
  • Having a heart attack in the past increases the risk for another one.
  • Spasms occur in the large coronary artery. This can be triggered by: Heavy physical exertion, such as shoveling snow; exposure to cold; severe emotional stress; and having a heavy meal. These triggers are more likely to affect persons who are not active.
  • Common places a heart attack pain is felt.

  • Cocaine or amphetamine abuse can cause a sudden heart attack. This can happen in persons with no signs of heart disease.
  • Heart Attack Warning Signs

    Common Warning Signs

  • Feeling of pain (may spread to or be felt in the arm, neck, tooth, jaw, or back), tightness, burning, squeezing, or heaviness in the chest. This lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Chest discomfort with:
  • Fainting
  • Feeling lightheaded.
  • Nausea.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sweating.

  • Other Warning Signs

  • Unusual chest, abdominal, or stomach pain.
  • Dizziness; nausea; trouble breathing; jaw or arm pain without chest pain.
  • Fast or uneven heartbeat or pulse.
  • Sweating for no reason, pale, gray, or clammy skin.

  • Signs More Likely in Women Than Men

  • An uneasy feeling in the chest with: Unexplained or extreme anxiety; unusual fatigue or weakness; fluttering heartbeats; or severe indigestion that doesn't go away with an antacid.

  • {Note: If any of these signs occur, call 9-1-1. Then, give "First Aid for a Heart Attack Before Emergency Care" listed below.}

    Treatment

    A heart attack is a medical emergency! Treatment works best when it is given within 1 to 2 hours after symptoms start. Treatment includes:

  • Medicine(s) to keep blood from clotting.
  • "Clot busters" to dissolve blood clots in heart arteries.
  • Tests to diagnose the status of the heart and arteries.
  • Angioplasty, stents, or bypass surgery, if needed.


  • Questions to Ask

    Do any of these problems occur?

  • Any heart attack warning sign listed above.
  • For a person with angina, chest pain does not respond to prescribed medicine or go away in 10 to 15 minutes.
  • (Note: Call 911 without delay! Then, give first aid as needed. See below)

    Self-Care / First Aid

  • Call 9-1-1 or your local rescue squad right away! Call when warning signs start. Don't wait to see if the pain goes away.

  • First Aid for a Heart Attack Before Emergency Care

  • Check for a response. (See Step 2 in First Aid Precautions.) Do CPR, as needed.
  • If the person uses and has nitroglycerin, place one tablet under the tongue. Give as many as 3 tablets in 10 minutes.
  • Give the person a regular (325 mg.) aspirin or 4 children's chewable aspirins (81 mg. each) to chew on. Give the aspirin after calling 9-1-1. Ask the 9-1-1 dispatcher if aspirin should be taken. {Note: Don't use aspirin if the person is allergic to it or has a condition that makes using it risky.}
  • If you can't call 9-1-1, drive the person to the hospital right away. If you are having heart attack signs, don't drive yourself unless you have no other choice.
  • Loosen clothing around the neck, chest, and waist. Don't let the person lie down, especially if he or she has breathing problems. A half-sitting position is better. Put the legs up. Bend them at the knees. Put a pillow or rolled towel under the knees. Support the back.
  • Reassure the person that you have called for medical help and will stay with him or her until it arrives.
  • After a heart attack, follow the doctor's treatment plan.


  • Prevention

  • Follow prevention measures in Heart Disease.
  • Take medications, as prescribed.
  • Don't shovel snow or carry heavy objects, especially if you are not physically fit.
  • Don't use amphetamines and/or cocaine.
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