Heart Attack



Most Heart Attacks are caused by coronary heart disease where the coronary arteries narrow due to build up of fatty material (atheroma) within the walls. If part of this atheroma breaks off it can lead to a blood clot forming, which can block the artery starving the heart of blood and oxygen.


The death of the heart muscle is irreversible, if not treated promptly in hospital, serious complications can occur, not excluding death. Remember "time is important" your assistance can save a life.


Please note: A heart attack is NOT the same as a cardiac arrest. A cardiac arrest is where the heart stops pumping blood around the body, however one of the causes of cardiac arrest is a heart attack.


Signs & Symptoms:

  • Sudden onset can occur whilst resting.
  • Pain often described as 'Vicelike'.
  • Tightness or pain in chest, which can spread to either arm, neck, jaw, back, stomach or shoulders.
  • Pain lasting more than 30 minutes.
  • Skin: Pale, grey clammy, sweating profusely.
  • Shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, feeling of 'Impending Doom'.
  • Not all these signs and symptoms may be present.
  • Diagnosis is by electrocardiogram (ECG).



  • Stop what they are doing and sit them down.
  • Dial 999 NOT your GP as time is IMPORTANT.
  • See if they have their own medication (GTN spray or tablets).
  • Give aspirin 300mg orally, crushed or chewed. If patient is not allergic, not on Warfarin, and not under 16yrs.
  • Reduce any causes of stress or anxiety.
  • Give oxygen if available to new National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines i.e. under 94% saturation.



Time is of the essence to improve outcomes. The faster a patient can be got to the Heart Unit for the insertion of a stent* the greater their chance of survival.


(* A stent is a small mesh tube inserted into an artery during a procedure called angioplasty to support a weakened artery).


We hope you find this article useful. This is one in an alphabetical series of articles addressing various symptoms and their first aid treatments. If you would like more information on related resuscitation and first aid training, please get in touch.


You might also be interested in Linda Hart's blog about seizures and related first aid.


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