“Anyone complaining of sudden onset of chest pain, breathlessness, uneasiness, and palpitations could be having a heart attack,” says Dr Vaibhav Mishra, Additional Director, department of Cardiac Surgery, Fortis Hospital, Noida. “Which is why,” he continues, “it is important to pick up the early warning signs.”
During a heart attack, the patient’s heart loses the ability to pump blood partially and continues with lower efficiency allowing the first hour for medical aid, which is an extremely crucial time period. “The chest pain may or may not radiate to left hand and often varies from central crushing or stabbing pain to mild dull aches, feeling of heart burn, epigastric discomfort bloating and belching. This is often accompanied by intense sweating,” explains Dr Mishra.
Some of the other symptoms include dizziness and even nausea. Experts add that if these symptoms persist for more than 15 minutes it is usually a clear indication of heart attack. “Other end of the spectrum would be patients who have collapsed and suddenly become unconscious,” he says.
To help you understand if a person may be having a heart attack and what can be done during that crucial moment, he suggests the following tips:
*If the patient is conscious, it is essential that they are moved to a comfortable position. Then loosen any tight clothings and ask them if they are a heart patient and are carrying Nitroglycerine tablets. These can be administered sublingually. However they should not be given without medical supervision if there is no history of prior use.
*Aspirin tablets should be chewed immediately.
*However, if the person is unconscious, commence CPR if you are trained in the same. If there is AED [automatic defibrillator] available nearby, follow the instructions of device.
“Many hospitals run courses in basic life support (BLS) and every institution, offices or housing societies should have a few people trained in these courses. Similarly, AED devices should be installed at offices, hostels, universities and other places so that people trained in BLS can utilise it effectively,” says Dr Mishra.
He adds that one should not wait for an ambulance to reach them and instead try and take the patient to the nearest hospital with a cath lab and cardiology services as early as possible. “Also, it’s prudent to inform the Hospital about your arrival in which case most hospitals have a system in place to directly transfer to cath lab for immediate stenting,” he explains.
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How to perform CPR
Push hard and fast on the person’s chest — about 100 compressions a minute. If you are trained in CPR, check the person’s airway and deliver rescue breaths after every 30 compressions. If you haven’t been trained, just continue chest compressions. Allow the chest to rise completely between compressions. Keep doing this until a portable defibrillator is available or emerge0ncy personnel arrive.