Did you know that every year we celebrate world heart day on September 29th? This day is used to draw attention to one of the leading causes of death here in Canada, cardiovascular disease, and helps educate the public in the hopes of reducing cardiovascular disease across Canada.
Cardiovascular disease is defined by the World Health Organization as “a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels and include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions”. Heart attacks are a common outcome of cardiovascular disease and because the number of heart attacks are rising, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack as well as what you can do if you believe someone is experiencing one.
What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack? Not everyone will experience the same symptoms, however there a few common signs which may indicate if someone is having a heart attack. These include chest pain/pressure, shortness of breath, nausea, heartburn and upper body discomfort. Women may experience different symptoms or almost no symptoms at all while having a heart attack, so it is important to contact a health care professional even if there are no obvious sign of a heart attack occurring.
So what can you do if you believe someone is having a heart attack? Well first you should always call emergency services and follow any instructions they may provide while waiting for medical professionals to arrive. If you are in a situation where it is not possible to reach emergency services, the Canadian Red Cross suggests following these steps.
- Call 9-1-1 or local emergency services
- Have the person sit or rest and try to remain calm
- Chew and swallow an aspirin (unless allergic or previously told by doctor to never take aspirin) Aspirin can sometimes help, but don’t get up and look around for an aspirin, as this may put unnecessary strain on your heart. If you’re not allergic to aspirin and have some next to you – or if there is someone with you who can fetch them for you – chew 2 low dose aspirin tablets (81mg). If the aspirin isn’t nearby, however, anyone with you should stay with you and not go looking for aspirin.
- Loosen any tight clothing
- Begin CPR if the person is not breathing
Northern Hearts provides free access to emergency response resources as well as a description of heart attack and stroke symptoms. For more information about these resources please visit https://northernhearts.org/emergency-response/ and/or https://northernhearts.org/heart-attack-stroke-symptoms/