“In 2020, a quarter of people will die from cardiovascular disease”


According the British Heart Foundation, in 2020, a quarter of the public will die because of cardiovascular disease. It is crucial to recognise the symptoms, call an Ambulance and begin Emergency First aid as soon as possible.


What is a Heart Attack?

The heart is a muscle, like your quads or calves. It has it’s own blood vessels. Sometimes, due to a number of different factors (bad diet, lack of physical exercise, genes, smoking and stress etc.) those small heart arteries, under the stresses of modern day life can become deformed or partially blocked, leading to a lack of blood flow to the heart.

In some extreme cases these blood vessels’ can become totally blocked. This will cause small parts of the heart to die. Prognosis in this instance depends on how long the blood vessel is blocked and how quick an ambulance takes to arrive.


How can I identify if someone is having a heart attack?

Typical symptoms of a heart attack include:

– sharp, stabbing pain underneath the sternum

– pain can spread to the jaw, left arm and the back

– pain can be also allocated in the upper part of the stomach (can be misdiagnosed as gastric disease)

– skin will become pale/gray and sweating will occur

– lips will become a gray/purple shade

Sometimes a heart attack can occur without any visible symptoms – especially for elderly people.


What should I do if I think someone is having a heart attack?

If the casualty is CONSCIOUS

First of all call an ambulance – this is your number one priority. Even if you have been on a 3 day first aid course or extensive first aid training, the world’s best first aider is no comparison to an ambulance. If a Public Access Defibrillator (PAD) is readily available (often found in gyms, malls, large super market chains, tube stations, GP and dental practices) ask someone to fetch it for you – do not apply the pads just yet – we don’t want our patient under any unnecessary stress. According to the HSE and British Resuscitation Council you are obliged to give your casualty one tablet of an Aspirine (300 mg). Ask them before if he/she is not allergic to it.

Casualties suffering from angina, will have GTN spray with them. Unfortunately you are not allowed to administer it. What you can do is to assist them in taking their own medication.  For example helping a patient find their medication, put it into their hand etc.

What position should I put someone in if they are conscious but suffering a heart attack?

Your priority here is to allow your casualty to be as comfy as possible. If the patient is confused, you should recommend the ‘W’ position. Allow the patient to sit down on the floor, lean on the wall behind him/her and bend their knees.


What questions should I be asking my conscious casualty after calling an ambulance?

Remember, while your patient is conscious, their condition is subject to change very quickly. Before an ambulance arrives ask your patient:


It is important to not over examine your patient unnecessary – it will only stress them further.


When symptoms appear, your patient will need:


Futher steps

Ask people, who are not needed to leave. Open the windows to allow for fresh air but careful not to open it too wide so that the patient become cold, especially during winter. Stay with your patient. Re-assure them that you have had first aid training and that you are qualified to help them. Sit down on the floor next to them, make them comfortable and offer support. If he doesn’t want to speak, don’t force them. Just be there for them.



What should I do if my casualty is or has become UNCONSCIOUS?

Start CPR. It doesn’t matter what has happened before. Follow the techniques you practiced in your first aid course. Find and use an AED (Defibrialltor) as soon as possible if available.

Remember to put your casualty on the flat, tough surface – don’t start the chest compressions on the bed or soft surface.


What is the difference between Angina/Heart Attack/Cardiac Arrest?

Angina means that there is reduced blood flow in the coronary arteries. Angina is diagnosed into two groups. Stable or unstable.

Stable angina is often connected with an immediate trigger like stress or increased exercise. Stable angina can be improved with medication and rest. However unstable angina is a bigger problem as there is no obvious trigger and can continue despite resting. This sharp chest pain can appear anytime and anywhere. Unstable angina is a serious medical emergency as this is a result of a rapidly deteriorating heart.

Heart attack is a term used to describe a complete blockage in a coronary artery in the heart. This is often caused by a blood clot or a rupture in the walls of the blood vessels which can lead to platelets aggregation and clot formation. In both of these cases the heart will not receive the appropriate amount of oxygen and glucose. If we do nothing, it will lead to cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest – means, that the heart doesn’t work anymore as an organ to pump blood around the body. It can simply stop beating or can start to shake vigorously (ventricular fibrillation). In both cases we need to start CPR ASAP.


Did you know?

The UK is falling way short of some other European countries as well as certain US states when it comes to recovery rates from cardiac arrests resulting from Heart Attacks. This is simply down to a lack of knowledge and confidence in dealing with First Aid situations.

Siren Training are very passionate about what we do. We are trying our absolute best to change this mentality amongst the general public. Our 3 day First Aid courses are our most comprehensive Fire Aid courses whereas our Emergency First Aid training is a 1 day action packed day full of practical scenarios, teaching you the best methods of dealing with instances such as cardiac arrest.

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