Too Much Turkey... or a Heart Attack? How To Deal With a Medical Emergency During the Festive Season

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SPOTTING
TROUBLE

You’re unlikely
to have problems spotting a serious asthma or heart attack and stroke,
particularly when you or the affected person develop symptoms quickly
and are very unwell.

Most people
who are seriously ill look seriously ill and so when you’re concerned
that you or someone else is suffering from an acute and severe illness
speak to your GP immediately or call for an ambulance. But in many
cases, events may not appear quite as dramatic.

For example,
asthma can get worse gradually and an asthma attack can sometimes
look less severe than it actually is. Heart attacks and strokes
may also present in quite a subtle way at times.

Spotting the
warning symptoms and signs early allows you to get help quickly
when appropriate.

IS GRANDPA
HAVING A STROKE?

If the blood
supply to your brain gets interrupted, you suffer a stroke. It may
be more apparent to those around you that you are suffering. If
blood cannot reach certain areas of your brain, the affected brain
cells behind the blockage can die and parts of your brain don’t
function properly afterwards.

The two main
types of stroke are ischaemic stroke, where a clot narrows or blocks
a blood vessel in your brain, and a hemorrhagic stroke, when a blood
vessel in your brain bursts causing bleeding into your brain.

A mini-stroke
(also known as a transient ischaemic attack or TIA) is very similar
to a stroke but does improve by itself within 24 hours.

Sometimes a
TIA can be a warning sign that a more serious stroke may be imminent,
which is why you need to take it as seriously as a stroke

You are at
higher risk of suffering a stroke if you have underlying health
conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, raised cholesterol-and
an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, or if strokes
run in your family.

Your lifestyle
may also contribute, if you smoke, are obese, or inactive, have
a poor diet or drink too much alcohol.

You can recognise
a stroke by any of the following features which may appear alone
or in combination:

  • The face
    has fallen to one side and is unable to smile properly. It may
    look contorted.
  • One arm
    is noticeably weaker than the other and the arms cannot be lifted
    and held out in front.
  • The legs
    are weak and cannot move properly.
  • Speech
    is slurred.
  • Sight is
    lost in one eye, partially or completely. If you suspect someone
    has had a stroke, call for an ambulance. The sooner you call for
    help, the better the chance of a good recovery.

HOW CAN
YOU TELL IF YOU’RE HAVING A HEART ATTACK?

In a heart
attack, the blood vessels supplying your heart suddenly become blocked
and your heart muscle doesn’t get enough oxygen. The result is usually
chest pain.

The main danger
of a heart attack is that your heart may stop beating, and so you
need to treat a possible heart attack as an emergency, even if you
still feel relatively well.

Heart attacks
aren’t always easy to spot but call for an ambulance if you recognise
one or more of the following typical symptoms which can occur alone
or in any combination.

  • You experience
    persistent, central chest pain that feels like a tightness or
    heavy pressure or like someone sitting on your chest.
  • You have
    a pain that spreads to your neck, jaw or down one or both of your
    arms. Sometimes the pain also spreads to your back or you feel
    it in your upper abdomen rather than in your chest (a bit like
    indigestion).

  • You have
    pain and in addition feel breathless, nauseous and sweaty, and
    your skin feels cold to touch. You may even be gasping for breath
    or vomit.
  • You have
    chest pain and collapse without much warning.
  • You develop
    a pale appearance or blue lips.
  • You have
    chest pain and notice that your heart is suddenly beating unusually
    fast and your pulse may be irregular. However, if you suffer from
    pre-existing conditions such as anxiety, a fast heart rate may
    be normal for you.

MANAGING
SHOCK

Shock is a
serious medical condition. It means that not enough blood is pumping
through your body and your vital organs, such as your brain or your
heart, do not get enough oxygen. In more severe shock, people become
aggressive, restless and gasp for air. Eventually they become drowsy
and lose consciousness.

Finally, the
heart stops beating. The skin may become clammy, cold and pale.
If shock is severe the lips may appear blue and skin can appear
grey or blue in colour. You may also notice excessive sweating.
Important causes of shock are:

  • Burns:
    Severe burns can cause shock when fluid evaporates from wounds.
  • Heart problems:
    Suffering from an acute heart problem such as a heart attack can
    cause shock.
  • Losing
    blood: You can develop shock if you lose large amounts of blood
    due to an injury.
  • Losing
    fluid: People lose too much fluid due to excessive sweating, severe
    vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Poisoning:
    Various poisons can lead to severe problems with your circulation
    and can also cause shock.

Read
the rest of the article

December
27, 2010

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