Every year, heart attacks claim the lives of thousands in Canada, because most people are not aware of the signs that they are experiencing one, and do not seek medical treatment until it is too late. Because February is heart month, it is the perfect time to educate every Canadian on the warning signs of heart attacks, and what to do when suffering from one, or how to help someone who is showing the symptoms.
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Those experiencing a heart attack will not all suffer the same symptoms, and many do not even know they are having an attack, which is why they do not seek medical assistance until it is too late to stop any irreversible damage to the heart. That is why it is so important to know what to look for.
The first symptom is usually some discomfort in the chest, though not necessarily pain. It may feel more like pressure or fullness, and may fade over time and then return, which can be very deceiving. There may also be some pain in other areas of the body, including the stomach, back, neck, jaw, and arms. The victim may suffer breathing difficulty as well. Other symptoms could include dizziness, feelings of fullness, indigestion, or a choking feeling, extreme weakness, anxiety, shortness of breath, a rapid or irregular heartbeat, cold sweats, and nausea or vomiting.
Though heart attacks can happen suddenly, for some people the attack can also happen quite slowly, with only minor discomfort. If any of these symptoms are experienced, it is best not to wait to receive medical attention, even if an individual is not sure whether or not they are having a heart attack. It is better to seek assistance and be wrong, than to wait and suffer the consequences.
The very first thing to do when a heart attack begins is to call 911. If unable to reach the telephone, have someone else call as quickly as possible, preferable within 5 minutes of first sign of distress. Ask the operator if taking Aspirin is necessary, and if so what dosage. Do not take any other pain medications. If nitroglycerin has been prescribed to the victim of the heart attack, ask if they should take their usual dose, and follow the operator’s instructions.
When the call has been made, sit or lie down in the most comfortable position possible. Do not continue with any activity, just rest until the ambulance arrives, and the emergency staff can begin treatment. It is important to wait for them rather than trying to reach the hospital without calling emergency services. The faster the trained emergency staff can reach the victim, the sooner proper treatment can begin, and the more likely the person suffering from the heart attack will survive.
Though heart attacks can happen at any age, the risk of having one increases for men over the age of 40, and women over the age of 55. Most of the time, those who suffer from heart attacks are senior citizens, which is why it is important not only for them to know the signs of one, but also for their caregivers, to ensure the proper diagnosis and swiftest medical care.