What to do if you see someone having a heart attack

What to do if you see someone having a heart attack

Around 62,000 men and 39,000 women experience a heart attack every year in the UK, according to the Heart Research Institute.

With this in mind, it could make a big difference if you know how to react to someone going through this medical emergency.

How to tell if someone is having a heart attack

Recognising the symptoms of a heart attack is the key to early intervention, which is important because the sooner the person receives medical assistance, the better their prospects are likely to be.

The British Heart Foundation advises that some of the following symptoms could be a sign someone is having a heart attack:

  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Pain or discomfort spreading from the chest to other areas of the body

If a person nearby describes this is happening to them, then you need to ensure they immediately receive help.

Don't be worried about making the wrong decision, and err on the side of caution if unsure. The NHS says paramedics would much rather be called out to what turns out to be an honest mistake than to a situation where it's too late to save the patient.

How you can help someone having a heart attack

The first action you should take is to phone 999 and ask for an ambulance.

While waiting for help to arrive, the person should be sat down and made to rest, so no extra strain is placed on the heart.

St John's Ambulance advises the best position to place them in is half-sitting with their knees bent, while ensuring their head and shoulders are supported.

If possible, you should try to locate some nearby aspirin, although make sure that the patient makes no effort to help you, as you don't want anything putting extra strain on their already-weakened heart.

Should you find the medication, check they are not allergic, and - if they can confirm this - give them one adult tablet (300mg) and tell them to chew it slowly. This should help to thin their blood and restore the supply to their heart.

However, if you can't find aspirin, don't worry. It is more important at this point that you don't leave the patient on their own.

While waiting, do your best to reassure them. Let them know help is on their way, and try to keep them as calm as possible.

How to deal with sudden cardiac arrest

If - before the ambulance arrives - the person goes into sudden cardiac arrest, which means their heart has stopped beating, then it's unlikely you will have immediate access to an automated external defibrillator.

In this instance, the government's health experts recommend performing chest compressions to try to restart the organ.

Some of the signs that the patient has gone into sudden cardiac arrest include:

  • They have stopped moving
  • They don't seem to be breathing
  • They have stopped responding to you

If you ever find yourself in this situation, make sure you follow the advice, as it could be the difference in saving a life.

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