In the UK, 92,000* people suffer heart attacks each year – a third of them die as a result – and research from St John Ambulance also shows that almost two-thirds (61%)** of people wrongly believe that a heart attack is a cardiac arrest.
Worryingly, an incredible 40% of people** would not know what to do if faced with a middle aged man with chest pains whilst 1 in 10 would put him in the recovery position, while waiting for an ambulance, which would not relieve the strain on the heart and may aggravate the condition.
A heart attack is most commonly caused by a sudden blockage of the blood supply to the heart muscle itself, for example a blood clot. The main risk is that the heart will stop beating.
Spotting the symptoms:
• Persistent central chest pain – often described as vice-like or a heavy crushing pain
• Pain spreading to the jaw, neck and down one or both arms
• Discomfort in the high abdomen, similar to indigestion
• Possible collapse without warning
• Ashen skin and blueness at the lips
• Rapid, weak pulse which may be irregular
• Profuse sweating, skin cold to the touch
• Gasping for air
• Nausea and/or vomiting
What to do:
• Sit the casualty in a semi-recumbent position with the knees bent
• Call 999/112 for emergency help and tell ambulance control you suspect a heart attack
• If available, and the casualty is not allergic, give them a 300mg aspirin tablet to chew slowly (provided they are not under the age of 16)
• If they have any medication for angina, such as tablets or a spray, assist them to take it
• Constantly monitor and record breathing and pulse rate until help arrives.
For those looking for quick, easily accessible first aid information, the St John Ambulance app is available free on smartphones and the website (www.sja.org.uk) offers demo videos, an interactive game, and lots of free advice. For more information about first aid courses, and volunteering opportunities in Ryde and Newport, please call 0303 003 0101.