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Emergency: How to Survive a Heart Attack

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    We often tend to think about heart attacks as something that could only happen in extremely distressing situations or during an arduous task. But, in reality, heart attacks aren’t just chest-clutching fall incidents. Instead, they can occur at any time of the day, such as during a shopping spree, while loosening up on the couch, or even waking up after a comfortable night’s sleep.

    Most people generally confuse a heart attack with cardiac arrest. And while both events require immediate actions; however, these cardiovascular conditions occur due to different reasons. A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to the heart gets blocked. The reason behind this blockage is the clot accumulation inside the arteries. Heart attacks, also called myocardial infarction, spread slowly to the upper half of the body. If left untreated, it can diminish the chances of survival.

    Facts about heart attacks

    Around 805,000 individuals suffer from heart attacks in the United States each year. Among these, 605,000 people are the ones that suffer from heart attacks for the first time. And 200,00 people had already been a victim of these attacks in the past. What’s more, one around five heart attacks are silent ones, meaning people aren’t fully aware of it. Given this whopping figure, healthcare professionals should have Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) certifications under their belt. 

    Are you wondering what is ACLS certification and how it can prove worthwhile in saving a patient’s life? Every second counts during cardiac arrests, strokes, and other cardiovascular conditions. People who suffer from heart attacks are in dire need of professionals who are well-versed in ACLS and efficiently manage cardiopulmonary emergencies. An ACLS certification imparts thorough knowledge about Basic Life Support (BLS), airway management, and the use of external defibrillators (AEDs). 

    And while it’s crucial to pursue advanced certifications. It’s equally important, if not more, for individuals to stay informed about the signs of heart attacks.

    Identifying the signs of heart attack

    The symptoms of a heart attack vary from one person to another. For instance, not all heart attacks start with extreme chest pain. Instead, most of them often begin with moderate pain and uneasiness. 

    An individual may feel some tightness around the chest area or discomforting sensations. The pain may radiate from the center of the chest and spread to the jaw, arm, neck, or stomach. Heart attacks can either occur when a person is active or at rest. Still, the severity of these attacks mainly hinges on an individual’s medical conditions and age. 

    Unfortunately, overlooking these minor signs can spell negative health repercussions. Therefore, keep an eye out for some of the following common symptoms: 

    • Abdominal pain, nauseating feelings, and cold sweat
    • Indigestion problem and heartburn
    • Light-headedness and unexplained shortness of breath
    • Fatigue and dizziness
    • Feelings of anxiety and uneven heartbeats

    With that said, gender also plays an integral role in the symptoms of a heart attack. Nonetheless, the odds of survival are only contingent upon how promptly you or your loved one responds to the situation.

    Steps to take in the face of heart attack

    • Take an aspirin

    The root cause of most heart attacks is the blood clots in the arteries responsible for circulating the blood to the heart. These clots impede the path of oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart; thus, damaging the muscles.

    Aspirin is one of the most common blood-thinning medications that enhance the likelihood of surviving coronary artery diseases. Therefore, unless you are allergic to this medicine, take some aspirin while waiting for emergency services. 

    Besides thinning the blood, it also stops the clots from growing in size, allowing the human body to crumble the lumps.

    • Take nitroglycerin

    Nitroglycerin is another medication you could use if you or a closed one suffer from a heart attack. It helps broaden the blood vessels and thus, making it easy to supply blood to the heart and relieve pain temporarily.

    Therefore, if your healthcare provider has prescribed nitroglycerin in the past, be sure to take it.

    Remember, nitroglycerin, by no means, stops the heart attack, nor does it increase the survival chances considerably. It’s best suited for patients with angina problems. So, don’t entirely become reliant on this medicine and ensure to call emergency services as soon as possible. 

    • Call 911

    Most people often remain in a state of denial, brush aside the symptoms, or take them lightly. But unfortunately, each minute of the delay in administering heart attack symptoms and treating them poses severe threats to human health and can even cause death. 

    Therefore, ensure to call 911 immediately. That way, you can get rushed to the hospital and receive timely treatment. 

    Remember, never make the mistake of driving yourself to the hospital. Ambulatory services already have the facility of clot-busting medications and defibrillators, and the professionals can initiate the appropriate treatment even before you arrive at the hospital.

    • Perform CPR

    If an individual goes unconscious and their heart stops beating, you can revive them with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). However, to perform CPR, you must follow some sequential steps. 

    First, make the person lay down on their back and tilt their head a bit upwards. Next, place one hand on top of the other, intertwine your fingers, and exert body weight to perform compressions. Continue compressing the area just below the breastbone until the EMTs take over. 

    And suppose you aren’t competent enough to perform CPR correctly. In that case, hands-only CPR is another effective method to improve resuscitation chances. However, be mindful not every heart victim requires CPR. That’s because, in most cases of attacks, the heart never stops working.

    What can you do to mitigate the chances of a heart attack?

    According to WHO, the prominent risk factors of heart disease include physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, tobacco usage, and destructive use of alcohol. The implications of these risk factors may emerge as increased blood pressure, high blood glucose and lipid levels, and obesity in individuals. These account for a staggering 17.9 million cardiovascular deaths per year. And more than 4 out of 5 these cardiovascular deaths are because of heart attacks. 

    However, it’s relevant to note that some of the risk factors of heart attacks go beyond our control, such as aging, genetics, and gender. Fortuitously, there exist some lifestyle changes that could help you reduce the likelihood of heart attacks and enhance the odds of surviving one. Some of these may include:

    • Eat a well-balanced and nutritional diet
    • Exercise regularly
    • Constantly monitor weight and shed pounds if your weight crosses the range
    • Limit intake of alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages
    • Quit smoking and limit exposure to second-hand smoke

    Final Words

    A heart attack generally happens when blood flow gets interrupted due to blockage of arteries. Suppose this accretion inside the blood vessels goes unaddressed. In that case, the person is at a heightened risk of severe heart attack, and sometimes, even death. As per CDC, approximately 47% of the US citizens contain one of the three leading risk factors of heart disease – increased cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and smoking.

    Being fully aware of the risk factors and recognizing the signs of heart attacks is the first crucial step for recovery. Therefore, try to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle to survive, or even better, avoid cardiovascular diseases altogether.

    And while no one wishes to suffer from a heart attack; however, it’s always best to stay prepared in all circumstances. So, learn CPR, memorize the warning signs, create a heart attack survival plan, and be sure to call 911 immediately.