If you are faced with unimaginable scenario where a member of your family has a heart attack, or someone suddenly becomes unconscious due to a heart attack, your priority is to try to save them by using the right method to increase their chance of survival.
What Causes a Heart Attack?
A heart attack occurs due to many different factors, but the most frequent cause is heart disease, especially:
- Arterial blockage, acute coronary arterial disease. When a blockage restricts blood supplies to the heart, it will stop beating suddenly if treatment cannot be given in time.
- Severe arrhythmia. The heart can be slower or faster than usual or alternate between both. If severe, it may cause the heart to stop beating, leading to death.
- Congenital hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This condition can be found in younger patients, usually affecting the lower left chamber. The heart wall becomes so thick that it interferes with blood flow. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy can cause severe arrhythmia and heart attack.
Warning Signs of a Heart Attack
A heart attack tends to be immediate without warning. In some cases, there might be chest pains, which is specific to the left side and radiates to the left arm or the sternum. It tends to occur while the patient is performing strenuous activities, such as walking up the stairs or extreme shock or fear, and can be accompanied by sweating, heart palpitation, pallor or loss of consciousness.
5 Steps to Perform during a Heart Attack
If you see someone experiencing chest pains, sweating or falling unconscious, you should suspect a heart attack and assist immediate as follows:
- Step 1 Stay Calm and Observe. First responders should stay calm and observe what is going on. Then, check whether the situation is safe to offer assistance. Be cautious of electrical shock, fire or unsafe building. In such cases, do not offer assistance and wait until the situation is safe enough to transport the patient to a secure location before offering assistance.
- Step 2 Assist the Patient. Place the patient flat on their back on firm ground. Try to wake them up by using loud sound and tapping their shoulders. Watch for any response. If the patient is awake or alert, place them on their side.
- Step 3 Listen to Their Breathing and Observe Breathing from the Chest. To check whether the patient has a heart attack or not, place your ear near their mouth and nose to listen to their breathing. Use your cheek to feel the breath out of their nose or mouth, while turning your head towards their chest to watch for rhythmic movement.
- Step 4 Holler for Help and Dial 1669. Let them know there is an unconscious patient. Inform them of the location and ask for an ambulance with AED machine. Also provide name and phone number of the contact person. The sooner help arrives, the better.
- Step 5 Start CPR. If the patient’s heart stops beating, becomes unconscious, is not breathing, or is having breathing difficulties, start chest compression to help pump blood from the heart. Press down about 2 inches on the sternum so that it can push blood out from the heart at the pace of 100 times per minute.
A patient suffering from a heart attack has only 4 –5 minutes to be saved. If longer than that, not enough oxygenated blood can be supplied to the brain and the patient may die. Thus, everyone should know how to correctly save lives to increase the chance of survival for the patient. Furthermore, if a family member has a risk of heart disease, annual heart checkup is recommended and everyone should be well-prepared for the unimaginable scenario.