Every one of us knows someone who died of a heart attack. But so many of us are really not that familiar with what a heart attack really is. More to the point, would you know it if you were having a heart attack? Would you be able to recognize if someone else were having one?
Heart attack symptoms are sometimes vague, particularly among women. The most obvious symptom is, of course, chest pain. But heart attack pain is not limited to just the chest, but can also include pain to any part of the upper body, including stomach pain. It can even be that stomach pain is the only pain a person experiences. Sometimes when a person is having a heart attack, they find it difficult to catch their breath. Other symptoms include dizziness and cold sweats.
Some of the more subtle heart attack symptoms that are commonly overlooked include indigestion and nausea. If a person feels fatigued for no apparent reason, it might be because they are having a heart attack. Believe it or not, pain in the head is also a sign that someone is having a heart attack...pain like a headache, or trouble with the neck or jaw.
If you are with someone who is experiencing one or more of these symptoms, the first thing you should do is check to see if the person is breathing. Also check for a pulse. Then raise the person's legs 18 inches off the ground to allow blood to flow toward the heart.
If the person is not responsive, call 9-1-1.
Then start chest compressions. They're easy! Don't be afraid! And best of all, you might save a life. Most people who have a heart attack at home or at work or in a public place die because nobody administered CPR in time. Usually if you wait until EMTs arrive, it's too late.
All you have to do is put the heel of your hand on their chest, between the breasts. Then link your other hand on top of it. Next, simply push down hard and kind-of fast. Most of know the old disco song, "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. Get that song in your head and push down on the person's chest to the beat of Stayin' Alive. That translates into about 100 beats a minute. This is called "hands only CPR" and doubles a heart attack victim's chance of survival.
Now that you know what to do, here's what you DON'T want to do: Do not leave the person alone. No matter how much they try to convince you that that are fine, or will be fine, don't let them talk you out of calling for medical help. And finally, don't wait to see if the symptoms will go away. They might not go away, they might get worse, and every second counts. Don't wast time. Call 9-1-1.
Heart attacks can be illusive and confusing because the symptoms are often vague. So keep in mind the wide variety of ways heart attacks can present themselves. Hopefully, you will never need to perform "hands only CPR," but if you do, dial 9-1-1 and think...two hands, push down hard to the beat of Stayin' Alive.