A heart attack is most commonly caused by a sudden blockage of the blood supply to the heart muscle itself, for example a blood clot. The main risk is that the heart will stop beating.
Recognition and treatment
Step 1 of 4: Look for
- Persistent central chest pain - often described as vice-like or a heavy crushing pressure
- Pain spreading (radiating) to the jaw, neck and down one or both arms
- Discomfort high in the abdomen, similar to indigestion
- Possible collapse without warning
- Ashen skin and blueness at the lips
- Rapid, weak pulse which may be irregular
- Profuse sweating, skin cold to the touch
- Gasping for air (air hunger)
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
Step 2 of 4: Sit them down
Sit them in the 'W' position:
- semi-recumbent (sitting up at about 75° to the ground) with knees bent.
Step 3 of 4: Call for help
Call 999/112 for emergency help and tell ambulance control you suspect a heart attack.
Step 4 of 4: Give an aspirin
- If available and not allergic, give them a 300mg aspirin tablet to chew slowly (provided they are not under 16 years of age)
- If they have any medication for angina, such as tablets or a spray, assist them to take it
- Constantly monitor and record breathing and pulse rate, until help arrives
- If they become unconscious, refer to the treatment for someone unconscious but breathing.