Heart Attack symptoms: One for the ladies

1 May 2019

So you think you know how to recognise a heart attack? Surely everyone knows about the vice like pain across your chest and tingling sensation in your left arm shortly before you collapse to the floor?  This may well be the case for some, but for many women this is not the case! 

According to the British Heart Foundation, coronary heart disease kills twice as many women as breast cancer….Let’s just stop to think about that phrase for a moment.

Twice as many women, die from coronary heart disease than breast cancer.

Be honest…was this something you knew?

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack is caused by the flow of blood to the heart being occluded. This can be caused by thickened arteries (usually found in women with high cholesterol, heavy smokers or those who are overweight.) As the heart is not getting adequate blood supply the muscle will begin to die, and is life threatening.

A number of studies show that women tend to be unaware of the symptoms of a heart attack. Indeed women tend to be less likely to seek medical attention for ailments. They may find it hard to prioritize their own needs first, or maybe worry about embarrassment if it isn’t serious?

Someone who is having chest pain, or believes they are having heart attack needs urgent medical attention! Please don’t wait to get help. Statistically we know the longer people wait to get help the less a chance of survival.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Women may get chest pain when experiencing a heart attack. Instead of the intense vice like gripping pain, women may describe it as a squeezing or discomfort in the chest. They may possibly describing it as a feeling of “fullness.” This pain may be over any part of the chest or indeed may not be present at all!

Jaw pain, arm, back, or neck pain are other possible heart attack symptoms. These pains may come and go before becoming more intense.

Stomach pain, which is frequently misunderstood as heartburn, or reflux is another possible symptom. This feeling could be one of mere discomfort or of a pressure building over time until it becomes significantly worse.

Shortness of breath, feeling sick, light headed, or possibly dizzy with accompanying chest pain, are all possible symptoms.

Also be on the lookout for breaking out in a cold sweat, a feeling of general unease or feeling very lethargic when also experiencing chest pain.

How can I help myself?

If the pain is severe or you are by yourself call an ambulance using the 999/112 number. Place yourself in a comfortable position where your back is supported against a wall or a chair. Bring your knees up towards your chest.

This position will lighten the work on your heart and hopefully temporarily ease some of the pain. Keep yourself warm and avoid having anything to eat, drink or smoke.

To reduce your risk of experiencing a heart attack in the first pace it is recommended that you quit smoking. Try and maintain a healthy weight following a low fat diet and one that is low in cholesterol. Keeping your blood pressure within normal limits is also beneficial.

What If I am with someone who loses consciousness?

In some cases the person may lose consciousness, in this event, it is possible they have had a cardiac arrest. This happens when the hearts electrical rhythm is disrupted and the heart is not beating as it ought too.

After checking for danger you should open their airway (by tipping downwards on the forehead, and lifting the jaw towards the ceiling.) Next assess their breathing for up to 10 seconds. Remember you are looking for normal and effective breathing.  If your casualty is breathing place them into the recovery position before ringing for an ambulance.

If the casualty is unconscious and not breathing, you will need to commence CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation.) Ambulance control can talk you through this, so remember to leave your phone on speaker phone.

They are likely to need a defibrillator so if in a public space always remember to shout for one. This life saving piece of kit can be used by any member of the public, even if they haven’t had training. Statistically we know the quicker a defib can be used, the higher chance of survival.

If you would like to learn CPR or indeed learn how to use a defibrillator in a controlled environment then please do get in touch to see how the Angel  Training team can help you.

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