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Heart Attacks

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8 minutes
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Speaker 1: No! No! No!No!! I can't believe it! Not again! That stupid ref! What is wrong with him?! I'm gonna lose so much money on this game. This is just unbelievable. Can't believe it! Speaker 2: Hey Joe. What's going on man? Speaker 1: I'm watching this game and this ref. He doesn't know what he's doing. This is horrible! Speaker 2: The game is one thing but you don't look like you're doing so well. What's going on? Speaker 1: I don't know. I think I'm just stressed out. I've got a pain right up on my chest. Its almost like someone is sitting on my chest. Speaker 2: Well. I'll tell you what. That's pretty classic signs and symptoms, along with you sweating so bad, of a possible heart attack. Did you ever have a history of heart attack or heart problems? Speaker 1: No. I've never had any problems like that before. Speaker 2:Well, I'll tell you what, to be on the safe side why don't we call an ambulance and have them check you out? Speaker 1: No, no.. Speaker 2: Just to make sure its not a heart attack. Speaker 1: No, I don't need an ambulance. If I gotta go to a hospital, I'm gonna drive if I have too.. Speaker 2: Well listen, listen.. Here is the deal. If it is possibly a heart attack, it is going to be so important for you to be seen and get whatever it is that's causing it removed so you don't have more serious problems and you would never want to drive yourself to a hospital because if you go unconscious while driving that vehicle, you not only put a risk of hurting yourself or killing yourself, but could you imagine running into an other car that is filled with children and family members and wiping them out? I mean, that's just too much. Speaker 1: No, no.. I understand. Speaker 2: So I'll tell you what, why don't we just call 911, let's get them on the way, if it's nothing, they will be able to let us know that. But if it is something serious, then we're gonna be able to get you in for treatment. Speaker 1: Alright, alright.. Speaker 2: Lets give them a call alright? Yea, 911? Listen. You know what, there's a lot of research that shows that heart attack patients, if they can take aspirin, have your doctor ever said anything about not taking aspirin or you cannot take aspirin? Speaker 1: No, never had a problem with it before. Speaker 2: Any allergy to medications that you know off? Speaker 1: No. Speaker 2: Any bleeding problems that would stop you from being able to take aspirin? Speaker 1: No, nothing like that. Speaker 2: Okay, here's a cup of baby aspirin. You can take between 2 and 4 of those. Just pop them in, chew it up and swallow it. And that's gonna help reduce the risk of further blood clot formation. It's not guaranteed but it has been shown to be very helpful. So, just swallow it down and just get into a nice position of comfort. If anythings tight or constricting, feel free to loosen that up and just kind of try to relax, okay buddy? So, lets take a closer look at heart attacks. First of all, what are they and why do they happen. Secondly, is there anything we can control or are we out of control when it comes to heart attacks? Thirdly, let's review the signs and symptoms so they we know that they may be having heart attack and it is important to call 911 and activate medical services. First of all, what's a heart attack. Well, a heart attack is anything that occludes the vessel that feeds the heart. And when that heart muscle begin to starve of oxygen it causes pain and that pain is usually what they feel when they say- "I felt like an elephant is sitting on my chest" or its a squeezing feeling or sometimes it may radiate to one or both arms, they can also potentially radiate up into the neck and in some cases they have even said to feel like jaw pain or tooth ache. In women it is very characteristic for it to actually go to the back and it makes them feel like they might have pulled a muscle or muscle strains. In many cases, they might have pulled it off. But it not that classic drenched in sweat, diaphoresis. Diaphoresis be the technical term for heavy sweating. They might just feel like they are achy or they got indigestion and they can sometimes put it off for too long and suffer other consequences as a results. But in the case where there is classic signs and symptoms, the heavy sweating, the crushing chest pain radiating to one or both arms, neck or jaw, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, weakness, nausea. These are all classic signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Now, that isn't to say that other things can sometimes mimic that. They could be that they have angina that comes and goes so it feels like there's a little bit but it goes away. It still is like thunder on horizon. They should take note on that and maybe rule out the chance it isn't an actual heart attack. But it could also be things like pneumonia or pleuritis or even a broken rib. But in the end it is better to rule out the heart attack and make sure that its not life threatening. But if in doubt call 911 and make sure its not a heart attack. So, what are some of the risk factors? What do we eat? How much do we exercise? Are we smoking cigarettes or other things that are bad for us. If we have diabetes and if we can control it, are we controlling it or is it out of control? Those would be classified as controllable risk factors. Uncontrollable is more of things like genetic predisposition like "I have this incredibly high cholesterol level and I'm a vegetarian". Well, that can happen. Things like diabetes that just won't stay in control no matter how much we treat it. Things like race, things like being male. So these are all the things that bioresearch found to predispose certain people to cardiovascular disease. And there's not much they can do to change that. Not to say there isn't other things you can do to help with the heart disease. Now, let's talk about the signs and symptoms. When you have symptoms like profuse sweating, chest pain, arm pain, neck pain, jaw pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, weakness. These are all classic signs and symptoms that the person might be having heart attack. And if they display those signs and symptoms, our job is pretty clear. Call 911 immediately. Get the ambulance on the way. If it's not a heart attack, its okay. We can always disregard the ambulance or they can rule that out then. But if it is a heart attack, time is of the essence. We don't wanna slow any of those treatments down. Their life could depend on it. Remember that most people would wanna deny that it is a heart attack. They would also probably wanna drive themselves to the hospital. Both are extremely dangerous. Not only for themselves, but for anybody who could be a victim of a patient who is unconscious behind the wheel careening into that vehicle and hurting other people. So remember, if you are waiting for the ambulance and if we could take aspirin, it's one of the treatments that even the paramedics could do. Because aspirin when they are absorbed into the blood stream works like a platelet lubricant. It actually helps blood platelets slide by each other so they don't stick and make a bigger clot. So, it's actually one thing you can do if the patient allows you to give it them where they can aspirin and help themselves prevent a worse heart attack or actually relieve some of the symptoms. Say, if they have a Nitroglycerine tabs or a spray or they can't get up to get it. You can assist them by going to get it and giving it to them. Remember to keep the patient as calm as possible. You can't lie to them and tell them everything's gonna be okay because we don't know if that is true. But we could reassure them that they are in good hands and that you are not going to leave them alone. If they have tight garments we can loosen those up and allow the patient to be in the best position of comfort they can find while we wait for EMS to arrive.

In this lesson, we're going to take a closer look at heart attacks, including:

  • What they are and why they happen
  • If there's anything we can do to help control or prevent them
  • The signs and symptoms of a heart attack for both men and women

What Causes a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when something occludes a blood vessel that feeds the heart. When this happens, the heart muscle begins to starve of oxygen, which causes pain plus any number of other symptoms, the totality of which is known as heart attack.

Some common ways patients may describe their symptoms include:

  • A squeezing feeling or tightness in their chest
  • Like something is sitting on their chest
  • Pain that may radiate into arms, or the neck, jaw, and teeth in some cases

Classic Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

Women often experience their own unique set of signs and symptoms that typically differs from what men may experience. So, consider this list to be men centric, as in the classic symptoms of a heart attack. The more typically female symptoms will follow.

  • Heavy sweating
  • Crushing chest pain
  • Pain that may radiate into other areas, most typically the arms
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

Women can experience the symptoms listed above, however, the most common symptoms of a heart attack for women are:

  • Back pain, like a muscle strain or pulled muscle
  • Feeling achy
  • Indigestion

Warning: One problem is the way in which heart attacks are depicted in movies and on TV, as it's always a sweaty guy clutching his chest. But that's mostly only true for half the population. And if the other half (some would say, better half) are expecting those same symptoms and getting something that feels more like the flu than a heart attack, this could delay a proper response, and the patient could suffer because of that delay.

Conditions with Similar Signs and Symptoms

There are a number of other ailments that have been known to mimic a heart attack, including:

  • Angina
  • Pneumonia
  • Pleuritis
  • Broken ribs

Pro Tip #1: Angina is a condition marked by severe chest pain, often spreading to the shoulders, arms, and neck, and is caused by a reduced blood supply to the heart. It's still a concern. Just not as concerning.

Warning: It's better to rule out a heart attack after being checked out by EMS personnel or a physician than it is to dismiss symptoms as something minor. When in doubt, check it out.

Once a heart attack is suspected, call 911 immediately and activate EMS. Get an ambulance on the way. If it turns out to be indigestion, you can always send them away when they arrive. Or better yet, they can examine the patient and rule a heart attack out.

If a heart attack is suspected and EMS isn't activated, all that's being accomplished is slowing down a response time and treatment should things worsen. Someone's life may ultimately depend on those wasted minutes or seconds.

Heart Attack Risk Factors

You can really separate this into two separate categories – factors we can control and factors we cannot.

Controllable Risk Factors

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Blood pressure
  • Diabetes

These are all huge factors when it comes to preventing cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and stroke. Controlling diabetes and blood pressure, if high. Stopping smoking, if applicable. And eating better, exercising more, and relieving stress in healthy ways. These are all areas of improvement everyone can control.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors

  • Genetics
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Race

When it comes to uncontrollable risk factors, the hand your dealt is the hand you're going to have to play. And unfortunately, certain people will always be predisposed to having a higher risk of heart attacks.

Helping Heart Attack Patients in Other Ways

Once you recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, you activate EMS, and both you and the patient wait comfortably for them to arrive, right? Well, not always.

Pro Tip #2: For some reason it's human nature to deny the existence of a heart attack – just a bit of acid reflux most likely – which only delays getting help. It's also common for heart attack suspects to want to drive themselves to the hospital. Both are obviously dangerous and NOT recommended.

While Waiting for the Ambulance

One of the first treatments that even paramedics will use is aspirin. Aspirin may prevent a worsening of the heart attack and it could even relieve some of the symptoms. If you have aspirin, and if the patient can take it, offer it to them.

Aspirin is effective because it basically acts as platelet lubricant once it's absorbed into the bloodstream. It better enables the platelets to slide by each other rather than getting stuck together and creating an even bigger clot.

Does the patient have nitroglycerin tabs or spray? Can you get it for them if they cannot?

Usually the best thing you can do for someone who's having a heart attack, or showing the symptoms, is reassure them that you'll be with them until help arrives. Tell them they're in good hands, in good care, but don't lie to them and tell them everything will be OK.

Simply keep them calm and make them as comfortable as possible until EMS personnel arrive.