Heart attack: Emergency first aid

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Switzerland. In the event of a heart attack, swift action must be taken to increase the chances of survival and to minimise permanent damage to the heart. But what are the symptoms of a heart attack and how should a person react?

What is it?

What is a heart attack? 

Arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle are called coronary arteries. During a heart attack, blood clots cause a blockage in one or more of these coronary arteries. This cuts off sufficient blood supply to the heart muscle, resulting in damage to the heart tissue. How much damage the heart sustains depends on how long it takes to restore the blood supply and which arteries are blocked.    

Learn more about the clinical picture of a heart attack

What are the symptoms?

How do I recognise a heart attack? 

A heart attack has the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain / feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, vomiting, indigestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety and fatigue, dizziness

The pain experienced during a heart attack is often severe to unbearable and can radiate into the shoulders, arms, neck, upper abdominal, lower jaw and the back.

What should you do?

What should I do when someone suffers a heart attack? 

If you think a person is having a heart attack, do the following:

  • Call 144 to report the emergency
  • Explain that you think the person is having a heart attack
  • Give the name, address, and age of the patient
  • Position the patient on a hard surface with their upper body slightly elevated
  • Open tight clothes, ties or bras
  • Ask passers-by to help flag down the ambulance so that you can stay with the patient and help keep them calm