What is a heart attack and how should you handle it?

Don't walk the line with your heart. Stock image.

A heart attack occurs when the muscle tissue dies because its blood supply has reduced or stopped.

This is usually due to a clot in the coronary artery, which blocks the blood supply to the heart. The heart can also stop if its electrical system is affected.

The Courier got some advice from Netcare 911 on steps to take if you believe someone is suffering from a heart attack.

The very first thing to do is to contact emergency services.

Help the victim to the most comfortable resting position, usually sitting, and loosen clothing around the neck and midriff.

Be calm and reassuring.

If the victim is alert and able to swallow – and not allergic to aspirin – give him/her one adult aspirin.

Should the patient collapse with no breathing or pulse, place them flat on the floor and commence CPR immediately.

To perform CPR, place the heel of your hand in the middle of the chest with your other hand on top of the first.

Press down hard, compressing the chest by about 5cm, then release the pressure to allow the heart to fill with blood.

Stock image.

Knowing how to perform CPR could enable you to save a life. Stock image.

Repeat the chest compressions at a rate of about two compressions per second, for every 30 compressions give the person two rescue breaths by pinching shut the nose and breathing into their mouth till their chest rises.

There are numerous causes for heart attacks, so you can never be sure that you are not at risk of suffering one yourself.

Some heart attacks are mild enough that the victim doesn’t realise what has just happened to them.

Pay attention to what your body is telling you, the following are some of the symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Stock image.

Stock image.



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Allan Troskie

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