First Aid for Suspected Heart Attack

There are 450 deaths every day from a heart or circulatory disease in the UK*

If someone is suffering from a heart attack or angina it can be very distressing. Try to remain calm as this will reassure the person you are helping. Knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for can ensure that professional help from the emergency services is accessed quickly.

Tell Tale Signs

Firstly, it is helpful to know that every heart attack is different and will present different signs and symptoms to each individual.

Here are some things to look out for:

  • The Onset – it can happen suddenly, even when the person is resting.
  • The Pain – has been described as squashing, dull or tight.
  • Location – Centre of the chest and can travel down either arm, although the left is more common. Pain is commonly also felt in the neck, jaw, back or shoulders.
  • Time – It usually lasts longer than 30 minutes.
  • Skin – Can be pale or even grey, they may have excessive sweating.
  • Pulse – Can often become irregular and miss beats.

The person may also experience shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.

What should I do?

  • Call 999/112
  • Sit the casualty down and make them as comfortable as possible.
  • Ask them if they have medication and allow them to take it (some people with heart disease may carry something called GTN in tablet or spray form).
  • Try your best to keep them calm by reassuring them.
  • Is there an AED nearby? If possible, get it to the scene in the event the casualty becomes unconscious.
  • If they are not allergic to aspirin and they are older than 16 allow them to chew one slowly.
  • Continue to monitor them and prepare to start CPR.

It is crucial that the person has access to professional medical help in case their situation deteriorates. Chances of recovery are improved by early access to an AED and early access to advanced medical care.

*Figures from British Heart Foundation November 2021