I haven’t spent a great deal of time discussing chest pain due to coronary artery disease, even though it is one of the leading causes of death in today’s society. Why? It will, as you can imagine, be difficult in a collapse situation to do very much about heart attacks, due to the loss of all the advances that have been made to deal with coronary disease. There will not be a cardiac intensive care unit or a cardiac bypass surgeon at your disposal. We will have to accept that some folks with heart problems will do better than others in hard times.
What Happens During a Heart Attack?
Heart attacks, also called “myocardial infarctions”, involve the blockage of an artery that gives oxygen to a part of the heart muscle. That portion of the muscle subsequently dies due to oxygen deprivation, either killing the patient or leaving them so incapacitated as to be unable to function in a post-collapse scenario. This decrease in function is most likely permanent.
Does that mean that you can’t or shouldn’t do anything if you suspect that your patient is having a heart attack? No, there are low tech approaches; they just won’t do much if there has been a lot of damage caused. Even if cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may be limited in its usefulness (it is most helpful if you have modern medical facilities the patient could benefit from), it is still compulsory for any effective medic.
Symptoms of a Heart Attack
You would suspect a heart event if you see the following:
- “Crushing” sensation in the chest area
- Pain down the left arm
- Pain in the jaw area
- Pale coloring
The main approach is to immediately give your patient a chewable adult aspirin (325 mg). This will aid in preventing further damage to the coronary artery and preserve oxygen flow. Aspirin works within 15 minutes to prevent blood clots in coronary events. One adult-strength aspirin contains 325 milligrams. The current study suggests that 325 milligrams of chewable aspirin is the most effective treatment for a heart attack. Coated aspirin, while easier on the stomach, takes longer to take effect.
A natural alternative is Salicin, which is found in the under bark of willow, poplar, and aspen trees. You will want them to directly chew strips of the under bark, which would be the fastest way to get the substance into their system. A tea will also deliver the Salicin, but will take some time to brew. The only problem here is that you won’t know exactly how much of the substance you’ve actually given your patient.
A person suffering a heart attack will feel most comfortable lying down at a 45 degree angle. Complete rest will cause the least oxygen demand on the damaged heart. Don’t forget to loosen constrictive clothing; tight clothes make a cardiac patient feel anxious and cause their heart to beat faster. This will cause more strain on an already damaged organ. Oxygen treatment, for those who have portable oxygen in their medical supplies, is commonly given but there is limited evidence that it leads to better outcomes.
Aspirin, in small doses, is also reasonable as a preventative strategy. One baby aspirin (81 mg) daily is thought to prevent the deposition of plaque inside the blood vessels. You might consider having all of your adults 40 and over on this treatment. Men are most likely to have coronary artery disease, as female hormones seem to protect women, at least before menopause. If your patient takes heart medications, administer them immediately. Also, don’t forget the part that poor nutrition and smoking plays in clogging your arteries, and the benefits of exercise to improve cardiac performance.
Those in your survival community with coronary artery issues should stockpile whatever medications they take to deal with their symptoms. Angina (cardiac-related chest pain) can be treated with nitroglycerine tablets. Placed under the tongue, they will give rapid relief in most cases, although more than one tablet might be necessary.
There are various other causes of chest pain. Injury to muscles and joints in the torso may mimic cardiac pain. In this type of pain, you will notice that the pain gets worse with movement of the affected area, or that you can elicit pain by pressing on it. Rest the patient and give them Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen for pain. Acid reflux may also cause pain (usually burning in nature) in the chest area. This type of pain is usually improved with antacids (Tums, Rolaids, Maalox, etc.). Some teas (for example, ginger, mint, or catnip) are calming to the GI tract.
Chest pain is also seen in some patients with anxiety issues. This is usually accompanied by tremors, a rapid heart rate and hyperventilation. Sedative herbs like Valerian Root, Passion Flower, and Chamomile may be helpful in this situation, as are some prescription medications such as diazepam (Valium). Relaxation techniques such as massage may also help.
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