A heart attack or Myocardial infarction is a serious medical emergency, a blockage of one of the coronary arteries stops blood flow to part of the heart causing infarction or death of the heart muscle, this can lead to cardiac arrest in some patients. As a PHECC CFR or Cardiac First Responder you can help someone having a heart attack by following the clinical practice guidelines outlined in your training. This article will remind you of the steps you can take to help someone having a heart attack.
What are the risk factors for heart attack? There are several risk factors that will make a person more likely to have a heart attack, some of these risk factors are controllable i.e you can do something about them and some are uncontrollable meaning we have little control over them. Uncontrollable Risk Factors Include:
- Genetics or Heredity – if an immediate family member has had a heart attack then the person is more likely to experience a similar episode.
- Gender – Historically males are more susceptible to heart attacks than females but recent studies have shown female heart attacks on the increase
- Age – older persons are more likely to suffer a heart attack or related cardiac event.
- Race – persons of an Afro – Caribbean background are more likely to suffer a heart attack
Controllable Risk Factors Include:
- Smoking – smokers increase their risk of a heart attack
- Obesity – overweight persons also increase their risk of a heart attack
- High Blood Pressure – persons with high blood pressure who go untreated can increase their risk of a heart attack
- High Cholesterol – persons with untreated high cholesterol increase their risk of a heart attack
- Lack of exercise – persons who exercise regularly reduce their risk of a heart attack
- Stress – persons suffering from stress can increase their risk of a heart attack
How do I recognise a heart attack? Persons suffering a heart attack may show certain signs and symptoms of the condition, the common signs and symptoms are outlined below, keep in mind the person may have no previous history of heart problems and the attack may occur with no warning or trigger.
- Central Chest Pain – A pressure pain in the centre of the chest, this pain is usually constant and unchanging i.e does not get better or worse on movement, breathing or over time.
- Radiating Pain – The chest pain may radiate to other areas of the body including the persons arms (left or right), Jaw or Back.
- Colour Change – The person may appear a grey/pale colour
- Anxiety – The person will be quite distressed and anxious about what is happening
- Breathlessness – The person may have breathing difficulties
- Other Symptoms include sweating, nausea and vomiting.
Worth considering that males who may think they are having indigestion may be mistaken if they are sweating, indigestion patients usually do not sweat. Also post menopausal diabetic females who complain of sweating and difficulty breathing may be having a heart attack with no chest pain. What can I do to help someone I think is having a heart attack? As a heart attack is a “time critical” emergency, the quicker you can act the better the recovery rate for the person. The steps below outline the actions you should take in a situation such as this.
- Call 999/112 – Call the emergency services and request an ambulance, be sure to tell the call taker the nature of the emergency and an exact location using landmarks if possible, keep in mind any locked doors or barriers the ambulance may face getting to you and your patient.
- Aspirin 300mg – If Aspirin is not contraindicated i.e there isn’t a reason not to give Aspirin to this person administrator 300mg of Aspirin or Disprin, ask the person to chew the tablet or dissolve it in a glass of water. be sure to read the need to knows about aspirin below. remember to document the time and dose of aspirin delivered and tell the paramedics when they arrive.
- Keep the person calm and reassured – This will help to reduce the heart rate of the patient and keep them calm until help arrives.
- Monitor Vital Signs – If you are trained to monitor the persons pulse rate and breathing rate at least every five minutes, record your findings and remember to pass these on to the ambulance paramedics when they arrive.
- Prepare to resuscitate – Unfortunately heart attacks may lead to cardiac arrest, thus if you are trained in CPR and Defibrillator use be prepared to put this skills into practice should the patient arrest before the arrival of the ambulance paramedics.
What do I need to know about Aspirin? The Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council Aspirin medication formula is included in this article for your reference and we strongly advise you print out a copy of this and place it inside your aspirin packet so you always have it on hand if you are administrating aspirin. Keep in mind aspirin should not be stored in first aid kits. The important information you need to know is below.
- Presentation & Dosage – aspirin is available in multiple dosages from local chemists or supermarkets. The 300mg packet is the ideal one as the recommended dose is 300mg i.e one tablet from this packet
- Indications – meaning when do you give someone aspirin, Aspirin is indicated for CFR’s when the person complains of cardiac chest pain or Suspected Heart Attack only.
- Contraindications – meaning when you can’t give aspirin to a person even though they have symptoms which would usually require aspirin. There are 4 contraindications for Aspirin thus you must rule out these before aspirin is given, they are:
- Active Stomach Ulcers
- Allergy to Aspirin
- Bleeding disorders such as Haemophilia
- Persons under 16