DEFINITION : A heart attack is a condition in which damage to an area of heart muscle occurs because of an inadequate supply of oxygen to that area. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart is not pumping strongly enough to provide blood to vital organs. Cardiopulmonary arrest is sudden cessation of breathing and of effective heart function.
CONSIDERATIONS : Heart attack is the leading cause of death in America today. Heart attacks may cause immediate cardiac arrest or may progress to cardiac arrest. However, not every heart attack causes cardiac arrest. Many people die before they reach a hospital. The average person waits three hours before seeking help for symptoms of a heart attack. The sooner you get to the emergency room, the better your chance of not only surviving, but of lessening the damage done to your heart.
CAUSES : In adults, causes include clot formation or spasm in one of the arteries that supply the heart muscle (a coronary artery). These and other similar conditions block the supply of oxygen to an area of the heart, leading to damage or death of the cells in that area. Most often, this occurs in a coronary artery that has been narrowed from changes related to atherosclerosis. Other causes for cardiac arrest may include drowning, suffocation, electrical shock, severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), drug overdose, and trauma. Babies and children rarely suffer heart attacks. Heart disease is extremely rare in infants and children. The primary cause for cardiac arrest in children is respiratory arrest. This may occur for a number of reasons including drowning, suffocation, electrical shock, anaphylaxis, poisoning, illness, and foreign body aspiration.
SYMPTOMS : In adults:
- chest pain below the sternum (breastbone)
- pain may radiate
- to the chest, arms, shoulder (see shoulder pain)
- to the neck, teeth and jaw (see toothaches, face pain)
- to the back
- abdominal pain
- pain is prolonged, typically greater than 20 minutes
- pain is similar to angina, but not relieved by rest or nitroglycerin
- any prolonged chest pain, back pain, or abdominal pain
- pain that may be described as:
- "bad indigestion"
- intense, severe, subtle, or absent
- squeezing or heavy pressure
- "an elephant sitting on my chest"
- a tight band on the chest
- shortness of breath occurs suddenly
- may or may not be accompanied by pain
- cough - lightheadedness, dizziness
- fainting - nausea
- sweating, may be profuse (diaphoresis)
- dry mouth
- feeling of "impending doom"
Note : : The victim commonly denies that he or she may be having a heart attack. In babies and children: - victim is limp and unresponsive - skin is bluish in color DO NOT : -
DO NOT leave the victim alone.
DO NOT allow the victim to deny the symptoms and convince you not to call for emergency medical assistance.
DO NOT wait to see if the symptoms go away.
DO NOT give the victim anything by mouth unless he/she has a prescribed heart medication (such as nitroglycerin).
CALL IMMEDIATELY FOR EMERGENCY MEDICAL ASSISTANCE IF : - the victim is having difficulty breathing, is having seizures, or is unconscious.
FIRST AID : If crushing chest pain or other symptoms suggestive of heart attack occur. - if an adult is unresponsive and/or appears to not be breathing. - after performing one minute of CPR on a baby or child or immediately if you do not know CPR. Have the victim sit down and rest, and attempt to keep calm. Loosen any tight clothing. If the victim has a known heart condition, ask if he/she has the medication. Assist the victim in taking the medication (usually nitroglycerin which is placed under the tongue). If the pain does not subside with rest and within three minutes of taking nitroglycerin, call for emergency medical assistance. If an adult victim is unconscious and unresponsive. If an infant or child is unconscious and unresponsive, perform one minute of CPR
PREVENTION : Adults should control cardiac risk factors whenever possible. Control blood pressure and total cholesterol levels, modify diet if necessary, lose weight if obese, control diabetes, and comply with your doctor's prescription orders. Follow an exercise program to improve cardiovascular fitness. (Consult the health care provider first.) If you smoke, reduce the frequency or quit smoking altogether. Smoking more than doubles the chance of developing heart disease. Limit your alcohol intake. One drink a day is linked with reducing the rate of heart attacks, but consuming two or more drinks a day can damage the heart. Teach safety to young children and create a safe environment for them to prevent accidents which may lead to cardiac arrest.
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