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What to do when you think you’re having a heart attack

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A heart attack or a myocardial infarction is a medical emergency that can turn life threatening. When one has a heart attack the blood flow to the heart is restricted causing tissue damage in the heart. If you suspect that you are suffering from a heart attack or a friend or colleague may be suffering from one, it is important that you take immediate action. Prompt action and medical intervention may save a life and greatly reduce the extent of damage caused to the heart.

Recognising the symptoms of a heart attack

To be able to respond effectively it is important that we are aware of the symptoms of a heart attack. The initial symptoms of a heart attack could include –

Pain or discomfort around the chest area – These pains could be shooting pains, dull aches, severe crushing pains, mild discomfort. Heart attacks could occur when you are active or at rest. You may feel better but these could come back after a few minutes.

Trouble breathing – Heart attacks are often accompanied by shortness of breath. They could also bring on a lot of sweating.

Other pains – A pain in one or both arms along the jaw and teeth, neck area and back can also be symptoms of heart attack.

Infrequent symptoms – Heart attacks are sometimes accompanied by nausea or vomiting, stomach aches, indigestion, extreme fatigue, light-headedness, irritability, and anxiety.

If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms it is important to contact a hospital and receive critical care emergency treatment.

How to respond to a heart attack

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from a heart attack, it is imperative that you keep calm and call for an ambulance right away. Do not drive the patient to a hospital unless you are very near the hospital or are unable to reach medical services.

It is highly recommended that the person having the attack be given an aspirin tablet. This must be chewed and not swallowed whole.

If the person suspected of having a heart attack has stopped breathing, it is best to perform CPR till the ambulance arrives.

Medical treatment and care

Some of the best emergency hospitals in India recommend immediate administration of electrocardiogram or ECG and blood tests to diagnose the occurrence a heart attack and to determine the extent of damage. A cardiac catheterisation (angiography) may also be administered if a block is suspected. Treatment for heart attack often starts right away. Blood thinners and anti-coagulants may be prescribed by the doctors. Also, depending on the diagnosis the doctor may administer clot busters or thrombolytic therapy. In cases of extensive blockage, a bypass surgery may be undertaken.

Prevent and be prepared

Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 are at a higher risk of having a heart attack.Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke also increases the risks. High blood pressure or hypertension and uncontrolled diabetes also puts one at higher risk of suffering from a heart attack.Those who are at higher risk can help prevent heart attacks. Here’s what you can do

  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Monitor and keep cholesterol and triglycerides under control
  • Monitor blood pressure and be regular with medication
  • Get regular exercises
  • Maintain ideal body weight
  • Manage stress

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