Save Someone Having A Heart Attack

A heart attack (proper name: myocardial infarction) is when the blood supply and therefore the oxygen in the blood is blocked off to one or more parts of the heart. They can occur due to poor heart health, old age, family inherited conditions, extreme stress and many other factors. They appear with symptoms such as tight squeezing chest pain, weakness, shortness of breath and sometimes vomiting.

So if you were sitting in your workplace and suddenly someone started showing these symptoms, would you know what to do? And could you help them survive?

You certainly can. Here are some tips:

Call an Ambulance

If they have a sore chest it may just be heartburn, as they feel similar to begin with, but if they have a history of heart issues, are overweight or have other possibly contributory health issues you may be best to just call an ambulance immediately. Or if their symptoms such as the ones described above get worse then call an ambulance. They will help you through some things you can do until the ambulance arrives.

Make Them Comfortable

If they are awake they are likely to be alarmed and scared. You can help them by keeping them calm, awake and warm. If it is a heart attack then they can become unconscious and stop breathing quickly so it is important to keep them awake and alert as long as possible to give them the best chance of survival.

If They Go Unconscious

If they pass out but are still breathing you can put them in the recovery position. This is basically on their side with their arm under their head so that they can be sick without choking. Keep them warm and check the are still breathing until the ambulance arrives.

If They Stop Breathing

If they stop breathing you will need to perform chest compressions and artificial respiration (basically what you have seen people do on TV a hundred times but not quite so dramatically). The operator on the phone should be able to talk you through the process but to give you an idea of what you will need to do…

  • Kneel beside them and place your hands (one on top of the other) with arms straight on the lower half of their breastbone.
  • Press down on the chest about about 4-5 cms 30 times in a row in a quick rhythm. Say “one-and-two-and-three-and-four” so you don’t go too fast or slow.
  • Then tip their head back, hold their nose, form a seal around their mouth with yours and breath into their mouth for about 2 seconds. Repeat. Then go back to do 30 chest compressions and keep going in this pattern until help arrives.

Sound easy? Sound scary? You could go on a first aid course to give you some confidence, but with at least with this knowledge you might just save someone’s life.

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9 thoughts on “Save Someone Having A Heart Attack”

  1. The only error I see in the article is the part where if the person stops breathing, the writer has you performing CPR.

    Actually, if the person stops breathing, you need to initiate rescue breathing and then check for a pulse.

    If the patient does have pulse, you would perform resuce breathing.

    If they do not have a pulse, then would initiate CPR.

  2. Couple of quick questions and comments because I don’t know, so in the hope of furthering the discussion I ask: If they go unconscious, which side should they be placed on? The left with the heart lower or the right with the heart higher?
    What about the current thinking of giving the victim an aspirin?
    Compressions and artificial breathing- seems like I recently heard that the thinking on breathing has changed with an emphasis more on compressions when only one rescuer is available. Perhaps the thirty beats to one breath takes this into account

  3. Give them aspirin and get them to a hospital quickly. There are more kinds or types or degrees of heart attack then you can easily list. There really is no “one” effective treatment. If you can get them to an ER still living they have a good chance. Not every heart attack is “helped” by an aspirin but by the same token those that aren’t helped by it aren’t hurt by it. It is simply the single effective thing you can do at home, nothing more, nohing less. But for real help they need to be in the hospital and hopefully a large hospital and it wouldn’t hurt to be a weekday between 8am and 5 pm. Some public schools and large venues (like stadiums, and government buildings) will have defibrillators available. These are used in the event the heart stops or goes into dysrhythmia. It should not be used for simple chest pain where the victim is awake and aware.
    Did I mention that you need to get the victim to the hospital quickly?

  4. The American Heart Association recommends compresions only for the non-healthcare proffesional. If someone is unconscious and not breathing, call 911 and then check for a pulse. If no pulse, begin compressions at a rate of at least 100 per minute. Don’t stop until help arrives or the victim asks you to get off him.

    For unconscious persons who are breathing, the left side is recommended but not really vital. Just get them on their side and wait for help.

    Giving asprin to someone complaining of tightness in the chest or chest pain is fine as long as the patient can chew and swallow it. Chewing it gets it into the blood quicker.

  5. As a recently licensed EMT, i would like to add something.
    A requirement for becoming any type of healthcare professional is to take a CPR course. As per this course, compressions should be given, as a previous commenter posted, at a rate of 100/min. The rescuer should give 200 compressions before giving any type of rescue breathing, which should not be attempted unless trained by a professional in a CPR course. In addition, the protocols for giving CPR has changed within the last year or so, from ABC(Airway, Breathing, Compressions) to CAB(Compressions, Airway, Breathing). The reason for this change was that it was discovered through evidence-based medicine, that managing the airway and giving rescue breathing does not help the blood flow through the body, profusing soft tissue with oxygen and nutrients, which can result in tissue damage, particularly to the heart and brain. Therefore, giving compressions should be attempted first, and at a rate of 100/min for 200 compressions. Simply put, the blood in the body has enough oxygen and nutrients to provide adequate profusion for up to 5 minutes for the brain, and 10 for soft-tissue, as long as the pump, heart, or compressions are consistent and adequate. I believe this is the biggest reason that “compression only CPR” is being advocated for untrained people. If i have any of this information wrong(am only recently licensed EMT), i would welcome any professional with an equal or higher level of train to comment further.

  6. AW, you are correct. The recent changes were found to improve patient outcome, in large part because those who don’t perform CPR regularly (and many who do) were struggling with the airway component. They would check for breathing far too long, and then spend more time deciding whether they really wanted to lip-lock the patient. Hands only CPR does away with all that and gets to the root problem, lack of precision. As for how many compressions before breaths, your number might be a local protocols. AHA recommends the health care proffessional give the standard 30 compressions then two breaths. My agency and every other we interface with is doing this. As a long time EMT instructor and AHA instructor, I have not heard of doing 200 compressions prior to breathing.

    When it comes down to it though: Doing anything is better than nothing. The patient is dead without intervention, so pump away, whether it is 200 to 2 breaths or 30 to 2, or even hands only.

  7. thank you for the correction, Bobby. i dug out my AHA BLS For Healthcare Providers manual to review the content. It seems i was thinking of having 2 rescuers, a bag valve mask, and oral adjunct regarding 200 compressions, and is how often to cycle between partners. In a single rescuer scenario, it would in fact be a 30/2 ratio. I am only a recently liscenced basic and appreciate the correction from one more knowledgable and experienced than I :-).i wouldn’t have commented further, since it wasn’t really needed, but I also wanted to thank Rourke for all the hard work he puts into this site, it is where i begin my blogcrawl everday and the information here is outstanding. sorry for spelling errors, im on my mobile this morn.


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