A heart attack is a painful and threatening condition. However, things are worse when you’re alone as you get one. The following article gives you some important tips on how to survive a heart attack when alone. Read ahead if you want to equip yourself for such an emergency.
Before we discuss how to survive a heart attack when alone, let me put a common misconception about heart attack and cardiac arrest being the same to rest. You see, while most people refer to cardiac arrest as the medical term for heart attack, both conditions are completely different from each other insomuch as the pathophysiology of each case is concerned. While both cardiac arrest and myocardial infarction (correct medical term for heart attack) occur due to issues with blood circulation and supply to the heart, their respective modes of occurrence differ significantly.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the contractions of the heart become irregular or less forceful than normal and this results in decreased blood circulation in the entire body. This leads to inadequate delivery of oxygen to all parts of the body and the loss of consciousness that occurs during a cardiac arrest is a result of the brain not receiving sufficient amounts of oxygen.
Myocardial infarction, on the other hand, occurs when blood supply to a particular region of the heart is cut off, chiefly due to arterial blockage. This causes the cells in that part of the heart to die out. If left untreated for long, this lack of blood and oxygen supply to the heart leads to intense damage of the cardiac muscle and tissues. While cardiac arrest is characterized by absence of pulse rhythm owing to abnormal slowing down or cessation of cardiac pumping, myocardial infarction is typically characterized by the conventional symptoms that are associated with ‘heart attack’ such as chest pain (which mighty radiate to the shoulders, arms, lower jaw), shortness of breath, palpitations, excessive sweating, nausea, fatigue, lightheadedness, etc. Now, that we have clearly defined what heart attack is and differentiated it from cardiac arrest, let’s proceed towards finding out how to save yourself from a heart attack when alone.
How to Stop a Heart Attack When Alone?
The above subtitle is sort of misleading. Technically speaking, there is no way you can actually STOP a heart attack happening to you all by yourself without proper medical intervention. The only way you can actually stop a heart attack before it happens is by following a healthy lifestyle, following a heart-friendly diet and sincerely following the treatment regime if you’ve been diagnosed with a cardiovascular condition. However, the steps that I will lay down subsequently will allow you to lower the intensity of an onsetting attack for the time being and buy enough time to get access to proper cardiac care facilities.
If you or your family happens to have a history of heart diseases, you must already be knowing the warning signs of an oncoming heart attack. This knowledge is crucial as it prepares you to correctly identify the signs as that of a heart attack before it’s too late. That being said, here are a few tips that you should take note of – they’ll help you hold on long enough for proper medical assistance to arrive and take charge of your condition.
- Call for help as soon as the physical discomfort and uneasiness around your cardiac area makes you suspicious. If you have already been diagnosed with heart disease and are receiving treatment for the same, you’ll be having the contact numbers of emergency medical faculties with you. If not, then simply call 911, quickly describe your symptoms and tell the operator your correct location. If you were driving when you started feeling uneasy, pull over immediately and tell the emergency service operator your present location.
- No matter how close you are to a medical care facility at that time, DO NOT attempt to drive on as you may pass out while driving within seconds and can cause accidents in the process.
- If you’re already receiving treatment for a heart condition, you must be having prescription beta blocker drugs around you. Take a pill immediately as you wait for medical help to arrive. In case of a first-time heart condition, chew on an aspirin pill. It will dilute the blood and prevent clots from happening, easing those artery blocking agents to loosen up and allow blood flow to the heart. This will keep your condition from worsening for the time being.
- Meanwhile, cease all activities and lie still. You need to conserve as much energy and oxygen as you can to prevent overworking your already exhausted cardiac muscle. You are likely to have some sort of externally administrable supplementary oxygen handy if you have been diagnosed with a heart condition. If so, get yourself as much oxygen as possible to keep yourself from losing consciousness or suffering a stroke.
- If possible, thump hard on the area of your chest where the heart is located to prevent it from stopping to pump blood. No matter how much you try, it is usually difficult to do it to yourself when you’re experiencing a heart attack and is usually more effective if someone else does it to you.
Now, after reading all this, you must be wondering why I bothered to give you so much information about cardiac arrest and tell you why and how it is different from a heart attack. Well, you must have come across a lot of chain mails advising you to perform the cough CPR (continuously force-coughing) when you suspect the onset of a heart attack. However, cough CPR cannot be administered outside a hospital setting because the first symptom during a cardiac arrest that one may experience is unconsciousness. Also, many people suffering chest discomfort/pain from a heart attack will not be in cardiac arrest and so, CPR would not be required. In fact, using cough CPR will raise the workload of the heart. The American Heart Association (AHA) does not second this method, which according to them is not a form of revival or resuscitation.
Now, one common blunder the chain mails commit is that they use the terms “cardiac arrest” and “heart attack” interchangeably as synonyms. As explained in the introductory segment, this is not so. A heart attack and a cardiac arrest are very different from one another (though a cardiac arrest may result from myocardial infarction) and the steps meant for salvaging one situation will not benefit the other. On the contrary, cough CPR can worsen a heart attack, which can consequentially lead to a cardiac arrest when things need not have turned that way! Hence, “self-CPR” or rather cough CPR method is not recommended when you are alone.