|The heart is a muscle that pumps blood around the body, which it does with the help of the thick-walled and muscular arteries and the other vessels of the circulatory system. The heart is controlled by regular electrical impulses that tell it when to contract. Like all other muscles, the heart needs its own blood supply and this is provided by the coronary (heart) arteries.
When this blood supply fails to run smoothly, the body starts to experience problems such as angina pectoris (angina) and heart attack. Either of these may lead to the heart stopping (cardiac arrest).
Throughout life, the arteries are clogging up with fatty deposits. As these fatty deposits cause the coronary and other arteries to become narrower, it becomes increasingly difficult for blood to flow around the body. The clogged coronary arteries can just about supply blood to the heart when it is pumping at a normal rate but when the heart rate speeds up the arteries cannot cope with the demand. This leads to an angina attack, a frightening, severe, crushing chest pain that acts as a warning to the victim to calm down or to rest.
- Sit the victim down and reassure her. This reduces the demands being placed on the heart.
- Angina sufferers may have medicine that will help relieve an attack. This is often in the form of a puffer or a pill that is placed under the tongue. The drug works by dilating the blood vessels, thereby increasing circulation to the heart. Help the victim to take this medication.
- Call an ambulance if the pain does not appear to ease or if the victim is not known angina sufferer.
- If the victim has regular attacks, listen to what she wants to do next.
If a coronary artery becomes completely blocked, the area of the heart being supplied by that particular blood vessel will be starved of oxygen and will eventually die. This blockage may be caused by a clot, a condition often referred to as a coronary thrombosis.
The development of advanced cardiac care in hospital and good-post hospital care means that the heart attack patients have a good chance of making a full recovery. This is important information to remember when you are reassuring somebody having a heart attack.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A HEART ATTACK
These signs and symptoms are generally the same as those of angina--indeed, the patient may initially suffer an angina attack that becomes a heart attack. The key difference is that heart attacks do not always follow physical exertion. While angina sufferers will recover from their attack on resting, heart attack patients do not tend to improve without medical treatment.
Keep a continual check on the breathing and pulse and be prepared to resuscitate if necessary
- Move the victim into a semi-sitting position, head and shoulders supported and knees bent, as this is generally the best position to breathe in.
- Reassure the victim and do not let her move, as this will place an extra strain on the heart.
- Call for an ambulance as soon as possible because the victim needs hospital care.
- If the victim has angina medication, let her take this. If you have an ordinary aspirin, give her one to chew (without water).