Broadgate Clinic London Wall – helping you to recognize the early warning signs of heart attack

Not all heart attacks are as sudden and intense as those shown in films; sudden blinding chest pain; being unable to breath, and sinking slowly to the ground as the convulsions spear through the chest à la Dr. Zhivago, as the older Yuri expires at the end of the famous movie. Most real heart attacks begin far less dramatically. Learning to recognize the various early warning signs, and taking appropriate action, can save lives.

This short blog, produced by Broadgate Gate Clinic London Wall will help you to recognize these symptoms.

The main cause of heart attacks – Coronary Heart Disease

The vast majority of heart attacks are caused by Coronary Heart Disease or CHD for short. CHD describes a condition whereby the arteries that carry blood to your heart (the coronary arteries) have become narrow due to a slow build-up of fatty material called atheroma. When a small piece of atheroma works its way loose, it can result in a blood clot forming. If this blood clot blocks the coronary artery, cutting-off the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart, it will cause a heart attack.

There are a number of early signs to watch for that could indicate that you, or someone else, is having a heart attack. They include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest
  • Pain or discomfort in the arm or shoulder
  • Pain or discomfort is the jaw, neck or back
  • Feelings of fatigue, light-headedness or feeling faint
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Experiencing shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A strong feeling of foreboding which has been likened to panic attack

The majority of the symptoms mentioned above are self explanatory. Chest pain is of course the “flagship” symptom and it can vary from person to person, so we’ll take a look further into its characteristics.

Chest pain

The majority of heart attacks involve a degree of chest pain or discomfort. This pain manifests itself in the centre of the chest and back. The level of the chest pain varies from incident to incident. In some cases it can be quite severe, while in others it can almost be dismissed as indigestion, and sometimes is. Sometimes the victims of chest pain feel as if the pain is radiating out from the chest and into the arms. This pain is more often felt in the left arm, although some victims have reported it in both arms.

In some instances there may be no chest pain whatsoever. This is more often the case with women who have heart attacks; also, the more elderly, and those who suffer from diabetes.

Calling an ambulance

Given the life threatening potential of a heart attack, if you do suspect that you, yourself, or someone else is having one, you should call an ambulance without hesitation. The sooner the paramedics arrive at the scene and start treating the victim, the better that victim’s chances of making a recovery will be.

What to do when waiting for the ambulance

The single most important thing to do when waiting for the ambulance to arrive is to rest. The victim should not exert themselves in any way. If aspirin is readily available, and you or the victim is not allergic to it, it’s a good idea to take or administer 1 x 300mg aspirin tablet, as this helps to thin the blood, which may help to restore blood flow.

The symptoms of cardiac arrest and performing CPR

A cardiac arrest happens, whereby the heart goes into spasm and then stops beating. You should, if you are able, carry out some chest compressions, often referred to as CPR, which is short for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation.

The symptoms that someone has suffered a cardiac arrest include:

  • The victim does not appear to be breathing
  • The victim is motionless
  • When the victim does not react to any external stimulation such as being spoken to or touched

The best treatment for cardiac arrest is the use of a defibrillator. Its full name is an Automated Electronic Defibrillator or AED for short. If one is unavailable, then CPR should be administered.

How to perform CPR

These are the steps to follow in order to administer CPR

  • Position the heel of one of your hands (whichever hand feels more comfortable) on the victim’s breastbone which is located at the centre of their chest
  • Put your other hand on top of the first hand and then interlock your fingers
  • Keeping your arms straight, pump by pressing down using your body weight, so that you depress the victim’s chest by approximately 5 to 6cm

You should aim to repeat the action so that you are performing something like 100 to 120 pumps per minute. Continue until the paramedics arrive.

Broadgate Clinic London Wall – helping to save lives. At Broaddgate GP we offer heart screening as part of our health screening service in London. Call today to book an appointment.

Recognising the symptoms of a heart attack (as published in this short blog written by Broadgate Clinic London Wall) and taking immediate action to call an ambulance, and if you can, administering CPR can save a heart attack victim’s life.