Identifying Medical Conditions: Heart Attack
Identifying the symptoms of any medical conditions and getting treatment on time is essential for you and your loved ones.
Most people appear reasonably healthy but as we grow old our bodies may give in to certain medical conditions. The sooner we recognize these conditions and take appropriate steps the better. It is quite possible that we fail to recognize the onset of the early signs and symptoms of certain common health problems. So we are providing some basic information to help you recognize some common conditions at an early stage and take preventative actions on time.
A heart attack happens when there is a sudden complete blockage of an artery that supplies blood to an area of your heart. The longer the blockage is left untreated, the more the heart muscle is damaged. If the blood flow is not restored quickly, the damage to the heart muscle is permanent. As we get older, the smooth inner walls of the arteries that supply the blood to the heart can become damaged and narrow due to the buildup of fatty materials, called plaque.
Symptoms of a heart attack:
- Minor chest pain, similar to indigestion. Often older people often do not experience any pain at all.
- Feeling nauseous
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing or wheezing
- Overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to a panic attack)
When there is little or no pain and the person recovers quickly it is very easy to dismiss mild symptoms and assume they are just an indication of ageing. They may also have had several incidences which they have ignored or not mentioned to you.
Symptoms of heart failure occur when the heart is unable to perform its usual functions adequately and, in the early stages, can include:
- Regular swelling of the ankles and lower legs
- Needing to sleep sitting up to breathe easily
In later stages
- The hands may swell
- The person may become breathless on exertion
- Lips, ears or fingernails may have a blue tinge
Steps to be taken:
Heart failure is treatable. If you suspect it, the person you are caring for should see a doctor as soon as possible. If you think someone is having a heart attack immediately call for an ambulance. The person must sit and rest while waiting for help to arrive. If you have an adult aspirin (300mg) available get the person to chew on it, unless they are allergic to aspirin or have been told not to take it.
A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops pumping blood around the body – the person will be unconscious and won’t be breathing normally. In this instance call an ambulance immediately and, if you don’t have access to an automated external defibrillator, give hands only CPR. This will increase the person’s chance of survival. To view a video of someone giving CPR go to www.nhs.uk/video/Pages/vinnie-jones-how-to-perform-cpr.aspx
For further information visit the British Heart Foundation website www.bhf.org.uk
Lastly, medical treatments and healthy lifestyle choices can help heart attack recovery, greatly reduce your risk of further heart problems, and relieve or control symptoms.