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How can you help a heart attack victim even if you do not know CPR

Portea Homecare

Portea Homecare

  Domlur, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   7 min     


Despite being a common cause of death among adults, heart attacks are an illness about which most of us are still clueless. Its time we update ourselves about heart attacks, what causes them and how we can be prepared; not just for our own well being but also for others when the need arises.

Risk Factors

Let us face it. Heart attacks are one of the most common causes of death. Whichever ethnicity you may belong to, heart diseases are second only to cancer when we talk about fatality.

Look at the below statistics:

  1. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among most people.
  2. Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than many forms of cancer combined
  3. In India alone, heart related ailments claim a life every 60 seconds.

Sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, age and genetics, all these and more, contribute to the risks of having a heart attack. Let us discuss them, one at a time:

  1. Age Factor: Age is quite a contributor and carries much risk of a heart attack. Men who are 45 years of age and older, and women who are 55 years of age and older carry a higher risk.
  2. Tobacco Consumption: Prolonged consumption of tobacco and even prolonged passive smoking puts you at high risks of a heart disease.
  3. High Cholesterol: If you have high levels of triglycerides and low to high-density lipoprotein (commonly known as HDL), you are at high risk of a heart attack.
  4. Family History: If heart ailment runs deep in your family history, chances are, you might be at a higher risk of contracting it.
  5. Sedentary Lifestyle: Most of us have sedentary jobs, which have contributed towards making us physically inactive. This has led to high levels of bad cholesterol in our body that influence plaque formation (read the next section for more detail).
  6. Obesity: Overweight individuals are in a higher risk category for a heart attack. Reducing approximately 10 % of your body weight cuts down on this risk.
  7. Stress: Stress is one of the major causes of several diseases in people today. Heart ailment is one of them. Studies have found that if we experience stress, our white blood cells increase. This leads to risks of plaque rupture.

What is a heart attack?

Our heart muscles need a constant supply of oxygen to pump up blood. If for some reason, the arteries accumulate a layer of plaque, the flow of blood is reduced over time as the walls narrow down. Possible reasons for plaque could be fatty deposits, which include calcium, protein and certain inflammatory cells, which build up in the artery walls.

There are times, when these deposits become hard and rupture leading to platelets rushing to that area forming blood clots. These blood clots block the arteries and subsequently the heart is rendered unable to receive oxygen. Within a short span of time, the heart muscle cells start to die. Immense chest pain occurs that is preceded by sweating, increase in the heart rate and sometimes even nausea and sudden weakness. Precisely, this is what we call a heart attack!

Recognizing a Heart Attack

Some people may experience all or none of the signs of a heart attack. These are called silent heart attacks, which prove to most dangerous of all. Let’s make a note of the common symptoms:

  1. Chest Pain or Discomfort: Some people may experience a piercing pain while some may experience just a mild discomfort. This could last for a couple of minutes or up to few hours. Patients describe this pain as squeezing or pressure on the chest that fluctuates.
  2. Pain in Upper body: One may feel a general discomfort or pain in the upper body area such as the arms, shoulders, neck or even the jaw line.
  3. Shortness of Breath: This may happen together with chest pain
  4. Cold Sweat, Nausea or Dizziness: These are accompanying symptoms, which are more common in women as compared to men.
  5. Weakness or Tiredness: The victim might feel weary or weak for a while. This symptom might also last for a few days.

Elderly people might brush off these symptoms thinking of them as signs of aging and related weakness in the body. However, if you experience any one or more of the above symptoms, observe not a minute’s delay in seeing a doctor.

What is CPR? (How many of us are unaware about It)

CPR is an acronym for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. It is a rescue procedure applied when a person is not responding and not breathing. Reasons could be many; however, a heart attack can be a common one. When this happens, another person can perform CPR to help the victim breathe and keep the heart beating.

CPR helps in pumping up blood to the heart when it is unable to do so, on its own. This normalizes the blood flow to the brain and the heart. CPR can aid in reviving the heart and the brain and prevent potential damage to these organs apart from averting death.

CPR can be most successful when administered quickly. However, it is important to understand the situations where CPR would be necessary. It must be done only when the victim is not breathing or is unresponsive to external stimulation.

Reading about CPR will surely give you a basic understanding of the concept; however, it is strongly recommended to take a course, which will help in learning the right techniques to give someone a second chance at life. Do not forget to seek doctor’s advice immediately.

  1. The first step is to determine whether it is safe to begin CPR. For instance, if a person is injured in a highway accident, you need to put yourself and the victim out of the danger zone before you begin CPR.
  2. The second step is to check for a pulse and quickly evaluate the responsiveness of the victim. Call out for help or dial the emergency number. Subsequently, check for breathing and begin CPR and continue till help arrives.

It is surprising that the commonality of heart attacks have no influence on people to learn CPR. The majority of us are unaware of how to give CPR and are most likely to be unwilling to learn. The most common reason for this could be a general lack of interest and time in finding a course that trains one on how to carry out CPR correctly.

Even if you don’t know CPR, here is how you can help a heart attack victim

If you are quick to act when someone appears to be having a heart attack, you have more chances to save his/her life. As mentioned above, be aware of the visible symptoms of a heart attack if you want to be of any assistance.

When you see someone experiencing a heart attack or complaining of chest pain or discomfort or any kind of pressure, the first thing to do is make the patient comfortable. It could be a mild heart attack that is accompanied by a feeling of nausea or clammy skin or sudden dizziness. These symptoms are a sign that you need to act fast.

Here are some pointers, which will help you in comforting a heart attack patient and give you a chance to even save a life.

  1. The first thing to do is loosen the clothing and have him/her sit down in a comfortable position. Most importantly, keep the patient conscious and make sure he/she is breathing.
  2. The second important step is to call emergency services or an ambulance to have expert medical assistance get to you fast.
  3. Don’t consider taking the victim to the hospital yourself unless that’s the only option. Waiting for an ambulance will get you more personalized medical care.
  4. Stay calm and avoid getting panicky when you are with a heart attack victim. Don’t add to the victim’s anxiety by getting frantic.
  5. If you have it with you, give an Aspirin to the patient to chew and swallow.

If you are present when someone has a heart attack, remember you might have only a few minutes to act fast and provide help. That help depends on whether or not the heart attack victim is conscious and breathing. The symptoms of heart attack can be subtle and may not always be like what they show on TV. The longer you wait for treatment, the more chances of survival will go down. Therefore, always consult a doctor!

Tags:  Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, Heart, Heart diseases, hypertension, Cardiovascular Endurance, Eating Habits, Obesity, stress,

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Nadia |  October 21st, 2016

very informative!!