Dealing with a Heart Attack

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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.

If you think someone is having a heart attack, look for the four Ps:

  1. Pain - a continuous pain in the chest, which could spread to the jaw, neck or arms.
  2. Pale skin.
  3. Rapid and weak pulse.
  4. Perspiration/sweating.
  • 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.
    Heart attack resting position SJA
     
  • 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.

Original Author:
St John Ambulance
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
St John Ambulance
Document ID:
28672 (v2)
Last Checked:
21/11/2016
Next Review:
21/11/2019
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