Hollywood has a lot to answer for!
The depiction of someone having a heart attack in a Hollywood movie is typically that of severe pain, falling to the ground clutching their chest but that’s often far from the truth. People suffering from cardiac “pain” often say that it’s not painful at all. People having a heart attack will usually describe the pain as tightness or discomfort. The severity of the pain is not necessarily a guide to its significance. Likewise cardiac related pain and discomfort will not necessarily go into the left arm or left neck as depicted in your standard Hollywood blockbuster. The sufferer may be a little pale or even sweaty.
The point is to take chest pain seriously particularly in someone who is a little older and more likely to be at risk.
If someone does have a cardiac arrest they will lose consciousness, they may also stop breathing, or sometimes they will develop Agonal breathing.
Agonal breathing is the medical term used to describe struggling to breathe or gasping. It is often a symptom of a severe medical emergency, such as stroke or hear attack. It can sound like gasping, gulping, gurgling, snorting, moaning or laboured breathing, it is not true breathing, but rather a brainstem reflex. A person may also show some signs of twitching muscles during Agonal breathing.
It often occurs because the heart is no longer circulating oxygen in the blood. In other cases, it may be due to the lungs not bringing in enough oxygen. It is present in up to 40% of cardiac arrest victims and occurs in the first few minutes.
If a person starts Agonal breathing or states that they have a tightness in their chest CALL 000. They should get to a hospital and receive emergency medical intervention immediately.
Start CPR immediately.