Some heart attacks are so severe that they stop the heart altogether; others render the person severely ill for a short time, but allow him to recover later. Other heart attacks are so minor that they may cause only sight discomfort in the chest.
Signs of a heart attack
Severe sudden pain in the chest. Usually the pain is central and described as ‘crushing’, ‘gripping’ or a ‘tightness’. It is rarely sharp or knife-like.
Pain down the arms or into the neck.
The person looks pale, sweaty, anxious and has a rapid and perhaps irregular pulse.
It is sometimes accompanied by breathlessness.
If the heart attack is very severe, there may be no pulse or heartbeat.
Any person complaining of any of these things, even in isolation, (except for breathlessness) needs urgent medical help.
Check to see if the person is conscious and cooperative
Sit him up at an angle of 45% in a bed or armchair or against a wall if out of doors.
Send for a doctor or ambulance, or get someone else to.
Get him to take his prescribed tablet if he carries them around with him for angina.
Loosen his clothing so that he breathe easily.
Dry his face of the sweat.
Do not fuss around – keep people away.
Sit and talk reassuringly to him until professional help arrives.
If no :
Lie him down flat.
Loosen his collar and other restrictive clothing.
Feel for a pulse in the neck or place your ear on the left side of the breastbone and listen for the heartbeat. If none is heard, start resuscitation. If the heartbeat is present, keep a close watch while someone else goes off for help.
What to do after a heart attack
Always take your medicines as prescribed – no more and no less.
Keep your weight to a level that is right for your height. If in any doubt, ask your doctor.
Never overeat – an overfull stomach can cause pressure on the heart.
Do not rush around after meals.
Cut down, or preferably stop smoking altogether.
Take regular, controlled exercise, but stop if you get chest or arm pain. Some people take up jogging after a heart attack with beneficial results.
Do not think of yourself as a cardiac cripple – millions of men are leading happy and fruitful lives after a heart attack.
Do not give up sex. Studies slow that the vast majority of heart attack patients can indulge in sexual activity without any fear of overstraining their hearts. But wait for 8 weeks after your heart attack before you start!
How to prevent a heart attack
Heart attacks kill an increasing number of people every year. One in three middle aged men today dies of a heart attack and the victims are getting younger and younger.
Certain factors seem to increase the risk :
Cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol (open to debate), obesity, lack of exercise and stress.
How to reduce heart attack possibilities
Stop smoking. If you smoke 20 or more cigarettes a day, you double you chance of having a heart attack.
Have your blood pressure checked by you doctor and keep to his treatment if it is high.
Cut down on fatty meat; use soft margarine instead of butter; use corn or sunflower oil for cooking; avoid cream. Also eat fewer than 3 eggs per week; cut down on pastries; cakes and biscuits; eat more fruits and vegetables;
Eat wholemeal bread and wholemeal flour products. The advice here on cutting down on cholesterol-rich foods is currently under scrutiny, but it will do no harm to reduce cholesterol-containing foods. Do not cut them our altogether though.
Get your weight down to what your doctor suggests. Start by cutting your sugar intake by half and eventually cutting it out altogether. This alone will reduce your weight surprisingly quickly.
Sedentary people have 3 times the chance of having a heart attack than active ones, so take regular exercise. Active people have 3 times the chance of surviving their first heart attack compared with inactive ones.
Walk or jog regularly (2-3 times per week) in such a way as to raise your pulse to 120 beats per minute or more. Anything less than this cannot be considered to be ‘protective’ exercise. Having said this, take care not to exercise too much too soon, but work it up gradually.
Stress, especially in the presence of other risk factors, can be an important trigger. Avoiding stress can be difficult, but it is worth trying to steer clear of the things that upset you or cause tension at work.