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How to Deal with a Cardiac Emergency

by Ken McBride

Have you ever been put in a position where you could have saved someone else’s life but you didn’t know how?

Not everyone knows how to deal with life-or-death situations, and being in one could damage you for the rest of your life. But what if you could learn just the bare basics of first aid – just enough to contribute and save another person’s life?

In this article, we’ll talk about heart attacks and what you should do if ever you see someone having a heart attack.

Let’s talk about statistics first.

Every year, about 800,000 Americans have a heart attack, with the majority being men. Patients with a certain type of heart disease are more likely to have a heart attack. About 1 out of 5 American adults have a form of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. Around 600,000 people die every year from heart disease, and most of these are caused by heart attacks.

You may know someone who is suffering from a type of heart disease, which puts them at risk of having a heart attack. While most people who’ve had a sudden cardiac arrest survived their ordeal, the risk of death remains high. Most people who have lived through a heart attack survived because of the people around them at the time. The first few minutes of a heart attack could determine if a patient survives or not. With a bit of knowledge, you can recognize the signs of a heart attack, as well as what you can do to do to help during such situations. 

What happens during a heart attack?

How to Deal with a Cardiac Emergency

Most heart attacks are caused by the formation of a clot in the coronary arteries. Most patients who have heart problems have atherosclerosis, a form of coronary artery disease, where plaque builds up along the arterial walls, narrowing the passage of blood. Plaque restricts blood flow, which would force the heart to work more to push blood through the blood vessel.

The buildup of plaque, under intense pressure, could rupture the blood vessel. Once ruptured, blood can blend with the necrotic core, leading to more clot formation. Over time, plaque deposits become bigger, causing a growing blockage to the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart. When oxygen-rich blood cannot reach the heart, cardiac tissue begins to die, and the heart stops working.

When parts of the heart die because of reduced or blocked blood flow, its overall function diminishes almost instantly. Most people who survived a heart attack would still have lingering health problems because their hearts got damaged permanently. Their survivability depends on where the clot was formed, and what was done during the first minutes of their heart attack.

How to tell if it’s a heart attack

The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain, but not all patients experience a sudden onset of chest pain when they have a heart attack. Only 70% of people who’ve had a heart attack felt pain when they had their episode. Pain may be felt on the left side of the chest, and most feel a blunt pressure radiating to their arms and neck.

Apart from chest pain, other signs of a heart attack include:

Although chest pain is known as the telltale sign of a heart attack, some may not experience any kind of pain at all. Individuals could experience a silent heart attack, which could present with other signs apart from chest pain.

What to do when someone has a heart attack

Heart attack

If you think someone you know or near you is having a heart attack, it’s important to remain calm. Don’t panic, and act quickly. As someone who is not medically trained, you can still make the difference that leads to the patient’s survival.

The first thing you should do is call 911. The dispatcher will walk you through what you should do in these situations. Make sure to listen carefully to the instructions. The dispatcher will ask you pertinent information and make it a point to answer as accurately as possible. Questions such as the patient’s current state, breathing, pulse, appearance – all of these are important bits of information that would give the dispatcher more to go on to give you the right plan of action.

Give the dispatcher your address, and let them know if you’re in a building or apartment complex. If you’re in a public area, let the dispatcher know about landmarks that could help the EMS locate you faster. Whatever you do, it’s important to stay on the phone with the dispatcher, until EMS arrives. It would also help if you can send someone outside to meet the EMS so they can reach your location faster.

The patient’s comfort is a priority in these situations. Comfort reduces anxiety, which makes them less likely to aggravate their situation. Place the patient in a position that they are most comfortable with. Patients who have difficulty breathing may be more comfortable sitting upright to ease their breathing. Talk to the patient, let them know what you intend to do, and what they should expect.

Ask around for aspirin. Taking aspirin may help lower blood pressure and slow down a heart attack. If the patient is awake and can swallow, make them take the aspirin. A full dose of aspirin for adults is equal to 3-4 doses of aspirin for kids. Make sure they chew the tablet before swallowing to speed up the process. Aspirin effectively prevents clotting, which could make blood more fluid. Just make sure that the patient isn’t allergic to aspirin before giving them the drug.

Once the EMS arrives, your role shifts to crowd control. Make sure that they have enough space to do their work. You can also secure the belongings of the patient and reach out to their emergency contact to let them know what happened. Patients who have heart attacks tend to be overwhelmed with the anxiety of the moment, and making sure that everything is handled, could help lessen the anxiety.

 Familiarize yourself with the telltale signs of a heart attack, and follow these three simple steps. No one ever wants to be in a life-or-death situation, but in case you’re in one, you now know how to properly deal with the situation.

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