A heart attack is often caused when the surface of a cholesterol plaque in an artery ruptures and the contents leak. This leads to a formation of blood clot, which completely blocks the artery resulting in the death of an area of heart muscle.



Onset: suddenly, can occur when resting

Pain: ‘vice-like’ squashing pain, often described as ‘dull’, ‘tightness’ or ‘pressure’ on the chest.

Location of Pain: central chest area. Can radiate into either arm (left is more common), the neck, jaw, back or shoulders.

Duration: usually lasts longer than 30 minutes.

Skin: pale, grey colour. May sweat profusely.

Pulse: often becomes irregular, missing beats.

Other signs and symptoms: shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea or vomiting.


So what can I do about it?

  1. Call 999 immediately!
  2. If the casualty is not allergic to aspirin and older than 16, allowing them to chew an aspirin tablet slowly may help to limit the extent of the damage to the heart.
    • Aspirin reduces the clotting ability of the blood. Chewing the tablet allows it to absorb through the skin of the mouth, so it works faster. A 150mg or 300mg chewable/dispersible aspirin is ideal.
  3. If the casualty becomes unconscious, then monitor breathing. Be prepared to resuscitate if necessary.


Want to know more? Attend a training course which covers this topic:

QA Level 3 Award in First Aid at Work (QCF)

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