Heart & Circulatory Conditions

First Aid Training - Heart attack


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
  • Breathlessness
  • 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.
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