One of my greatest fears when I first became a CHHA was that I would miss a crucial health issue and endanger my patient as a result. In order to be sure this wouldn’t happen, I researched how to spot symptoms of common illnesses and what to do if my patient exhibits these symptoms. In honor of National Heart Health Month, I am sharing what I learned about heart attacks. This information is crucial both for home health aides and for family caregivers.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Heart attacks are not necessarily sudden, so you need to pay attention to subtle symptoms such as:
- Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest. This pain may come and go.
- Discomfort in arms, back, jaw, neck or stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fainting or lightheadedness
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
If you spot these symptoms of a heart attack, it’s important to act quickly.
What to Do If You Suspect a Heart Attack
The first thing to do is to call 911 and ask for an ambulance to be sent over. Don’t try to drive to the hospital, since that will delay treatment. After you have called, offer the person an aspirin in order to reduce blood clotting. If he has been prescribed nitroglycerin pills, now is the time to take them. Even if symptoms have subsided and the person seems fine, call his doctor and report the incident.
Heart attack is the leading killer of both men and women in the United States, but about half of the people who die from heart attacks die because they didn’t get treatment quickly enough. The sooner you get help, the more chance the person has of surviving the heart attack. That’s why calling 911 right away is crucial, even before taking medication.
Knowledge Is Power
Luckily, I have not had to use my expertise in heart attacks in real time. But I am secure in the knowledge that if I had to use it, I would be able to spot the symptoms and call emergency services as quickly as possible. I wish you and your loved ones continued heart health!