Global Health Asia-Pacific July 2022 - Page 34


Recognizing Heart Emergencies ( Heart Attack )

Time is vital in the treatment of a heart attack as `Time = Muscle ’. The longer the patient is having an undiagnosed and un-treated heart attack , the more heart muscle will be damaged .

The heart is a vital organ in our body as it is the engine of our circulatory system . It continuously pumps blood to circulate throughout the body from the time we were a fetus , until the last day of our lives . Any disruption to the heart may affect other vital organs in our body . Although the heart ’ s function is to pump blood , it also requires blood supply to operate properly . Heart attacks happens when the blood supply to the heart is compromised . It is important to recognize and detect the signs and symptoms of a heart attack , so prompt treatment can be given as soon as possible .

Signs & symptoms To Look Out For Patients may present with typical or atypical signs and symptoms of heart attack . Those with typical signs are easier to detect and diagnose . They may present with chest pain or chest discomfort , commonly described as heaviness or tightness in the chest area . The symptom of chest pain is usually triggered by physical exertion , but it may occur even when the patient is resting . The pain may radiate to the neck , back , shoulders or arms . The chest pain may also subside with rest or medication , but in some patients , the pain may be more prolonged . Other typical signs of a heart attack may include shortness of breath , palpitation , sweating , nausea , dizziness or fainting spells .
A group of patients , especially females and the elderly , may present with atypical symptoms of a heart attack . These signs are not specific for a heart attack and may be missed by the patient , or by doctor attending to the patient ’ s complaint . They may experience pain at the epigastric area , which is the area between the lower chest and upper abdomen . This epigastric pain may be attributed to ‘ gastritis ’ or better known as ‘ gastric ’, and the diagnosis of a heart attack may be missed .
Time is vital in the treatment of a heart attack as `Time = Muscle ’. The longer the patient is having an undiagnosed and un-treated heart attack , the more heart muscle will be damaged .
Patients with a severe heart attack may just collapse and lose consciousness as a large part of the heart malfunctions or stops functioning completely .
Thus , it is crucial to be aware of these symptoms and signs , and to seek medical attention promptly . The doctor assessing the patient must be vigilant in diagnosing a heart attack , especially when the patient presents with atypical symptoms . An Electrocardiograph ( ECG ) is key in the diagnosis of a heart attack , and must be done immediately in patients complaining of chest discomfort or chest pain .
What are the steps that you can do to help someone having a possible heart attack ? Make sure that the person is in a safe environment . Get the patient to be in a seated , or lying position , whichever position they feel comfortable . Make sure that the person is not in danger of injuring himself if he falls or loses consciousness .
If the person is alone , assist in notifying their family members or friends . If the person is a known heart disease patient , they may have their own medication with them . Assist them in taking their medicine to ease the chest discomfort ( Glyceryl Trinitrate or GTN is a tablet to be put under the tongue when patients experience chest pain ).
Call an ambulance and describe as accurate as you can the location of the person you are attending to so the ambulance crew can arrive promptly . Communicate what you know and have done , and assist the ambulance personnel once they have arrived .
If the person suddenly loses consciousness , they may have had a cardiac arrest . This is when the heart stops pumping effectively , and no blood supply is delivered to the vital organs , especially the brain . �ithout sufficient blood supply , the brain will be injured within minutes . Patients in cardiac arrest require prompt and immediate Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation ( CPR ). If you are trained in CPR , start chest compressions as soon as possible . Their chances of survival is increased if they receive good quality by-stander CPR . Without CPR , the chances of survival decreases 10 % with every minute , and approaches zero within 10 minutes .
How to Perform A CPR The `chest compression only ’ CPR is the most basic C�� method , yet is effective . This does not require mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing , which many of
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