Heart attacks are caused by a block in the blood supply to the heart.
Typical symptoms a person may feel when having a heart attack include:
- Pain or a feeling of pressure behind the breast bone (sternum) or the left-hand-side of the chest, which lasts 10 minutes or more, or goes but then comes back
- Pain spreading to the shoulders, necks, arms or hands. The pain often radiates to the left arm
- Pain may also spread to the jaw, ear or stomach
- Discomfort in the abdomen – similar to indigestion
- A feeling of tightness in or around the throat
- Shortness of breath, even at rest
- Ashen skin
- Fainting and dizziness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Intense sweating
The person does not need to be exhibiting all of these signs to be having a heart attack – however, the more signs they do have, the more likely it is to be a heart attack.
What to do
Seek Medical help immediately: ring for an ambulance on 999 (or 112) and tell them it is a coronary problem.
- If you are having a heart attack and are on your own:
- Wait for the ambulance to reach you – do not drive as your condition may rapidly deteriorate.
- Do not exert yourself in any way and try to remain calm.
- If you are not allergic, take an aspirin (of 300 mg strength), or any other medication you have been prescribed for angina. Make sure you tell the medical crew what you have taken when they arrive.
If somebody else is having a heart attack:
- Ensure that the person stops what they are doing and sit them down – try to keep them calm.
- Only drive the person if you are absolutely sure you can get to a hospital before an ambulance reaches you, or if you have no phone to contact emergency services.
- Allow the person to take their own prescribed cardiac medicine if they have any.
- If the person has lost consciousness, check for signs of breathing and circulation, and begin CPR if necessary.
Find out more about heart conditions in the irishhealth.com Heart Disease Clinic