While it’s sad but true, all of us are getting older and with age comes health problems for many but the big one, the silent killer is heart attack.
Over the last few years there has been a number of Masters suffering heart attacks while at sea and that can cause a serious problem for the vessel and all persons onboard.
It’s not just Masters, we’ve had mates, engineers, deckhands and even cooks and special staff go down with heart attacks.
Fortunately, most of those have recovered and many are still in the industry providing their valuable knowledge and experience to up and coming crew members.
It’s not the best topic but its one that needs to be addressed as it’s not just older people suffering heart attacks.
With today’s changing lifestyle many younger people are falling victim to heart attacks so it’s important that you not only know the signs but also how to deal with a person suffering from a heart attack.
You need to be able to answer these 2 key questions …
- Do you know the signs of a heart attack? and
- Do you know how to deal with a person suffering from a heart attack?
If you don’t know the answers to those questions you best find out now because not knowing can put lives at risk…one of which may be yours!
Knowing the signs
How can a silent heart attack be silent?
A silent heart attack is just like any other, and just as damaging. Your heart needs oxygen-rich blood to function.
If plaque (which consists of fat, cholesterol, and other substances) builds up in the arteries that carry blood to the heart, this blood flow can be significantly or completely cut off.
The longer your heart doesn’t have blood flow, the more damage that occurs. Because silent heart attacks may go unnoticed, they can cause a significant amount of damage and, without treatment, they can be deadly.
The good news is that you can prepare by knowing these 4 silent signs of a heart attack.
The 4 key signs of a silent heart attack
- Chest Pain, Pressure, Fullness, or Discomfort
Sometimes the pain from a heart attack is sudden and intense, which makes them easy to recognize and get help. But, what about when it’s not?
Most heart attacks actually involve only mild pain or discomfort in the centre of your chest. You may also feel pressure, squeezing, or fullness. These symptoms usually start slowly, and they may go away and come back.
This can be complicated because these symptoms may be related to something less serious, such as heartburn. You know your body best, though. If you feel like something is not right, you need to be evaluated by a doctor or even head to the emergency room.
- Discomfort in other areas of your body
A heart attack doesn’t just affect your heart, you can actually feel the effects throughout your whole body. But this can make identifying a heart attack confusing.
You may experience pain or discomfort in your:
- Arms (one or both of them)
These symptoms can vary from person to person. For example, some people describe their back pain from a heart attack as feeling like a rope being tied around them.
You may also feel a heavy pressure on your back. Either way, if you think you’re experiencing any of these less obvious signs of a heart attack, don’t ignore them.
- Difficulty breathing and dizziness
If you feel like you’ve just run a marathon, but you only walked up the stairs, that might be a sign your heart isn’t able to pump blood to the rest of your body. Shortness of breath can occur with or without chest pain, and it’s a common sign of a silent heart attack.
You may also feel dizzy or lightheaded — and it’s possible you could faint. Though this can happen to both men and women, it’s more common for women to experience shortness of breath.
If you’re having trouble with tasks that weren’t previously difficult make sure you get it checked out in case it’s a subtle sign of a heart attack.
- Nausea and cold sweats
Waking up in a cold sweat, feeling nauseated, and vomiting may be symptoms of the flu, but they can also be signs of a silent heart attack.
You may know what the flu feels like because you’ve had it before, but when your gut is telling you that these flu-like symptoms are something more serious, LISTEN! Don’t chalk these symptoms up to the flu, stress, or simply feeling under the weather – they may be much more serious than that.
We strongly recommend that you ensure not only the Master has current First Aid, including CPR but also at least one other person onboard has it as well.
It’s no good if only the Master has First Aid, and they are the one to suffer a heart attack!
Our number one tip is to have an Automated External defibrillator (AED) onboard for use in the event someone onboard suffers a heart attack.