This leaflet is created from first aid advice provided by St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid charity. This advice is no substitute for first aid training - find a training course near you.
A heart attack happens when the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot.
Lots of people make a full recovery from a heart attack, but there's a serious risk that the heart might stop beating - called a cardiac arrest.
It's vital that you treat someone having a heart attack straightaway, otherwise they could die.
People who have angina are more likely to have a heart attack. Angina happens when the arteries to the heart become narrow and the heart muscle can't get enough blood. This can happen when someone's doing a physical activity but is even more of a concern if it happens at rest.
Angina pain is usually a tight chest pain, which may ease if they rest straightaway and take angina medication, and may only last a few minutes. If the pain lasts longer, presume it's a heart attack.
What to look for
If you think someone is having a heart attack, look for the four Ps:
- Pain - a continuous pain in the chest, which could spread to the jaw, neck or arms.
- Pale skin.
- Rapid and weak pulse.
What you need to do
- Call 999 or 112 for medical help and say you think someone is having a heart attack.
- Then, help move them into the most comfortable position. The best position is on the floor leaning against a wall with knees bent and head and shoulders supported. This should ease the pressure on their heart and stop them hurting themselves if they collapse.
- Give them a 300 mg aspirin, if available and they're not allergic, and tell them to chew it slowly.
- Be aware that they may develop shock. Shock does not mean emotional shock, but is a life-threatening condition, which can be brought on by a heart attack.
- Keep checking their breathing, pulse and level of response.
- If they lose responsiveness at any point, open their airway, check their breathing, and prepare to treat someone who has become unresponsive. You may need to do CPR.
Note: these hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid. St John Ambulance holds first aid courses throughout the country.
Adapted from the St John Ambulance leaflet: heart attack. Copyright for this leaflet is with St John Ambulance.
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Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.