If you think you may be having a heart attack, go straight to hospital. Early hospital care could save your life.
What is a heart attack?
The coronary arteries on the heart's surface supply blood and oxygen to the heart itself. As we grow older, they may become narrowed by fatty deposits on the inner walls (atherosclerosis). Angina is a chest pain or discomfort due to a temporary reduction in the blood supply to the heart. It is commonly brought on by exercise or emotion and usually settles within a few minutes rest.
A heart attack (coronary thrombosis) occurs when the artery suddenly becomes completely blocked by a blood clot. The pain is usually more severe and lasts longer.
The warning signs
- Pain, discomfort, pressure, or tightness in the centre of the chest, lasting more than 10 - 15 minutes. May be mild to severe
- Pain may spread to the shoulders, neck, and arms
- Sweating, paleness and shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
Chest pain. What to do...
If you have been previously prescribed Anginine or Isordil tablets or Nitrolingual spray, have one or two doses. If the pain or discomfort lasts more than 10 or 15 minutes:
- Dial 000
- Ask for an ambulance and report a possible heart attack
- If no ambulance is available, ask someone to drive you to a hospital. Do not drive yourself.
- Chew or swallow an aspirin tablet
Early hospital treatment vital
Every minute counts after a heart attack. Many deaths occur in the first hour when the heart may stop pumping (cardiac arrest). This can be effectively treated in most cases in hospital or by paramedics, by giving the heart an immediate electric shock with a 'defibrillator' machine.
Certain drugs are also now available in hospital which can dissolve the blood clot and reduce the heart damage. These drugs, such as streptokinase or tPA, should be given as early as possible, preferably within a few hours of the heart attack.
In some hospitals, urgent 'angioplasty' is available. In this procedure, the blockage is opened up by passing a narrow tube down the coronary artery and expanding a small balloon. A stent (metal tube) may be left in place to keep the artery open.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.