What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack happens when a blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart. If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly then the part of the heart which is serviced by that artery begins to die. The longer the person goes without treatment – the greater the damage.
What to do?
- Call 999 or 112 immediately (911 in USA).
- If you have an aspirin handy give it to the patient as this can help to dissolve the clot/blockage.
What is Cardiac Arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning. It is caused by a malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat. This means that the heart can no longer pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs because its pumping action has been disrupted. Seconds later the person loses consciousness and has no pulse. Death occurs within minutes if that person does not receive treatment.
What to do?
The first thing is to GET INVOLVED; there is a life hanging in the balance and you need to step up to the challenge! The good news is that cardiac arrest is reversible in most cases if it is treated in the first few vital minutes.
- So ring 999 or 112 (911 in USA).
- Begin CPR at once.
- If there is someone else on the scene tell them to locate a defibrillator (AED) and open it and follow the instructions the machine will give you.
- Keep the CPR going until the emergency services arrive and take over from you. Look at the CPR demo elsewhere in this site.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is a ‘brain attack’, caused by a disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. It is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. So recognising the signs of stroke and calling 999 for an ambulance is crucial.
Remember – F.A.S.T!
FACE – Has their face fallen to one side? Can they smile?
ARMS – Can they raise both arms and keep them there?
SPEECH – Is their speech slurred?
TIME TO CALL 999 – If you see any single one of these signs
When stroke strikes, act F.A.S.T – The sooner somebody who is having a stroke gets urgent medical attention, the better their chances of a good recovery.
The risk of having a stroke is higher amongst people in certain ethnic groups, including South Asian, African and Caribbean. This is partly because high blood pressure and diabetes are more common in these groups.
There are also lifestyle factors that may significantly increase the risk of having a stroke. They include:
- Being overweight
- Lack of exercise
- Poor diet
- Exceeding the recommended daily alcohol limit*
* Experts recommend that adult women should drink less than 14 standard alcoholic drinks per week. Adult men should drink less than 21 standard drinks per week. Drinking should be spread out over the week and keep some days alcohol-free.
Leading a healthy, active lifestyle is vital to help reduce your risk of having a
Reducing your risk
Some people are more at risk of having a stroke if they also have certain other
medical conditions. These include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat)
It is important that these conditions are carefully monitored and treated.
For more information on preventing a stroke and FA.S.T. go to the Irish Heart
Foundation websites www.stroke.ie or www.irishheart.ie or talk to an Irish Heart Foundation nurse in confidence on their Heart and Stroke Helpline 1890 432 787, Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm.
What is a TIA?
Transient Ischemic Attack (or TIA) is like a stroke, producing similar symptoms, but lasting only for a short space of time and gets better within 24 hours, causing no permanent damage. Often called a “mini-stroke”, a TIA should be taken as a serious warning, as it could be a warning sign of a more serious stroke, so it also needs to be treated as an emergency by calling 999 immediately. About one in three people who experience a TIA are very likely to have a stroke coming down the line.
The positive news is that you may have a chance of avoiding an ischemic stroke if you contact your doctor and seek medical attention without delay. Professional evaluation and identification of potentially treatable conditions in time may help you to avoid a stroke.
Rapid diagnosis of TIA allows urgent steps to be taken to reduce the risk of having a stroke. If you think you have had a TIA in the past and have not sought treatment, contact your GP.
Lifestyle habits will have to be reviewed and where necessary changed ie. no smoking, diet review, less alcohol etc. All those things are in the patients hands.
For further detailed information on Transient Ischemic Attacks go to www.mayoclinic.org.