Heart Attacks

Heart Attacks

Heart Attacks

The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood through the body. It is a muscleabout the size of a fist and lies between the lungs in the middle of the chest. The heartcells, like the brain and other organ cells, need a constant supply of oxygen to work.There are blood vessels surrounding the heart that supply this needed oxygen.

A heart attack happens when the oxygen-rich blood supply to theheart is reduced or occluded. If the heart muscle is deprived of this blood, it will die.Damage to the heart or cardiac arrest will occur if the oxygen supply is not returned tonormal. Heart attacks may seem to strike suddenly but are usually the result of disease ofthe heart and blood vessels.

Heart disease, such as atherosclerosis, develops slowly as depositsof cholesterol – a fatty substance made by the body and present in certain foods– build up in the inner walls of blood vessels. This is referred to as coronaryartery disease. Coronary artery disease is the gradual narrowing of the blood vessels,which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart. Heart disease can lead to a heart attack.

A heart attack has some common signs or symptoms. Recognizing thesesignals and getting prompt medical care can prevent serious damage to the heart. A majorsign is pain or discomfort in the chest that does not go away. Sometimes, heart attackpain can be mistaken for the pain of indigestion, muscle spasms or other conditions.

The pain is also described as a discomfort, or an unbearablecrushing sensation. Sometimes it can be described as pressure, squeezing, tightness,aching or heaviness in the chest. The pain is in the center of the chest and may spread tothe shoulder, arm, neck, jaw or back. The pain is usually constant and doesn’t changewith rest, changing position or taking medication. 

ANY CHEST PAIN THAT IS SEVERE, LASTSLONGER THAN 10 MINUTES OR PERSISTS EVEN DURING REST REQUIRES MEDICAL ATTENTION.

Some symptoms are difficulty breathing, pale or bluish skin, andsweaty moist skin.

General Care

  • Recognize the signs of a heart attack
  • Convince the person to stop activity and rest
  • Comfort and calm the person
  • Assist with prescribed medication
  • Be prepared to give CPR

Link to the American Heart Association for more information.