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Heart Attacks

Cardiovascular disease is common among older persons and is common in residents or patients in long-term care facilities.  Chronic cardiovascular disease may lead to heart attacks.  A heart attack is also known as a myocardial infarction and is caused when part of the heart is not receiving enough oxygen.  There are many factors or reasons why this can happen, and it is usually because the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart is blocked, most often by a buildup of fat and cholesterol or a blood clot.  When the blood flow to the heart is blocked, part of the heart can be damaged or destroyed.

The first step to treating a patient or resident for a heart attack is realizing that he/she is actually having a heart attack.  Some of the common signs of a heart attack are

  • chest pain or pressure, such as squeezing or achiness

  • feeling nauseous or throwing up/vomiting

  • looking very pale

  • breaking out in a cold sweat

  • pain in back, shoulders, arms, neck, or jaw

  • feeling short of breath

While working in healthcare, nursing assistants must follow the procedures for each facility.  However, some basic procedures for caring for someone who is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack are the following:

  • pull the emergency light/bell or call for help loudly

  • remain calm and stay with the resident or patient

  • put the resident or patient in a comfortable position – maybe lying down instead of sitting – and keep him/her warm

  • check vital signs and conditions of patient or residents while waiting for the nurse

If the patient or resident stopped breathing and does not have a heartbeat, you should be prepared to begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

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© 2015 by Southwest Adult Basic Education

Project made financially possible through grants from:

Southwest Initiative Foundation, Marshall Community Foundation, Southwest Regional Transition Partners, Southwest Adult Basic Education, Marshall Healthcare Partners