Every Minute Counts
Cardiovascular diseases, or diseases that affect the heart and surrounding blood vessels, are one of the leading causes of death both in the United States and worldwide. Certain lifestyle choices such as smoking, lack of physical activity, and diets that are high in fats and sugar can increase a person’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease. A serious medical emergency that can result from having poor cardiovascular health is a myocardial infarction, or heart attack. Because heart attacks are very common, recognizing the signs and knowing how to respond is important for health care workers.
The heart is a muscle that needs oxygen to survive. A heart attack occurs when the flow of oxygen to the heart is blocked. The blockage causes the cells to become starved for oxygen and nutrients; as a result, the cells can die or be severely damaged.
The signs of a heart attack can be different for men and women, and they may include any of the following:
Chest pain that lasts longer than 3-5 minutes
Pain that spreads to other parts of the upper body, such as the arms, back, shoulder, neck, jaw, or the upper part of the stomach
A cold sweat
If you suspect that someone in your care might be experiencing a heart attack, act quickly to increase the chances of the person surviving by calling 911 and following your employer’s procedures for a medical emergency. If the person stops breathing or does not have a pulse, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The person might also require defibrillation, which is the delivery of an electric shock to the heart muscle to restore a normal rhythm. All health care facilities should have an automated external defibrillator (AED) that can be used to deliver the shock. Be sure that you know the location of the AEDs in your facility.
Being prepared and knowing how to respond might help you to save a life when every minute counts.