Heart Attack: What is at stake for people who live with disabilities?


A heart attack happens when there is a sudden, complete blockage of an artery that supplies blood to an area of your heart. As a result, some of the heart muscle starts to die. The longer you leave the blockage untreated, the more the heart muscle is damaged. A doctor needs to restore the blood flow quickly; otherwise the damage to the heart muscle is permanent.

Too many people lose their lives because they wait too long to get treatment for heart attack. If you think you are having a heart attack, call Triple Zero (000). Ask the operator for an ambulance and do not hang up. 

Besides damage to the heart, there is also a risk that your heart may stop beating altogether (cardiac arrest). In this case, Ambulance or hospital staff may use a defibrillator to give your heart a controlled electric shock that may make it start beating again. 

Let’s learn from Stewart’s experience

Stewart, 63, has worked for many years as a table hand at an Australian Disability Enterprise in Belmore, NSW. Lately he has been transitioning to retirement. Stewart is one of those people who never complains about things. 

A couple of years ago, his mother and sister became worried that he seemed to be short of breath. It turns out that he had been having severe chest pains for three days. 

When they realised this, they got him to hospital straight away. There, they discovered that because of the delay in seeking help, his heart had been seriously damaged. This is because his heart muscle had not received enough blood and oxygen during that time. For a while, things looked very dangerous.

Fortunately, after a long period of rehabilitation and a radical change of lifestyle, Stewart was able to resume work. However, it meant he had to move out of his mother’s home (she is over 90) and live with his sister. Of course, he still has to be very careful about his diet and general health! 

Here are some more heart health tips

• Be smoke free

• Manage your cholesterol

• Manage your blood pressure

• Manage diabetes

• Be physically active (less sitting down!)

• Maintain a healthy weight

• Enjoy a variety of nutritious foods (easy on the salt!)

• and very importantly: Look after your mental health

Have a more detailed look at the Heart Foundation’s tips for heart health here:


Go to Flourish Australia’s Back On Track Health microsite and click on the ‘Chest Pain and Heart Health’ card for more information. 


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