About the Heart

How the Heart Works
  • The heart is a muscle made up of four chambers divided by a wall called a septum
    • Right side - pumps blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen
    • Left side – receives oxygen rich blood from lungs and delivers it to the body
  • About the size of the fist
  • Located just under the breastbone on the left side of the chest
  • Maintains a normal electric activity in healthy persons
Interruption of Normal Electrical Activity
  • Ventricular Fibrillation (V-Fib)
    • Chaotic electrical activity that causes loss of circulation
    • The most common abnormal heart rhythm in cases of sudden cardiac arrest in adults
  • Ventricular Tachycardia (V-Tach)
    • Very rapid electrical activity
    • Heart may be unable to pump blood effectively

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, globally. Many risk factors can be controlled. Cardiovascular disease causes damage to the heart and surrounding blood vessels, which often leads to heart attack or stroke. The key to preventing cardiovascular disease is to focus on maintaining a healthy weight and diet, while engaging in regular physical activity, lowering daily stress and not smoking.

It is important to understand that risk factors for cardiovascular disease include those that can be controlled and those that are uncontrollable.

Controllable Risk Factors
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Cigarette smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High fat diet
  • High stress level
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
  • Heredity
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Age

Chain of Survival

 photo Chain of Survival_zpsa4tozpgt.png

The Chain of Survival is a common way of describing the order in which rescuers should provide care for a victim of cardiac arrest. Early action can improve the chance of a victim’s survival.

  • Link One: Early Access
    Rescuer recognizes early warning signs and immediately calls 911 to activate EMS (emergency medical services) to provide early access to care.

  • Link Two: Early CPR
    Rescuer immediately begins CPR cycle to continue minimal supply of blood to the victim’s heart and brain until defibrillator and EMS personnel take over.

  • Link Three: Early Defibrillation
    Rescuer utilizes AED (automated external defibrillator) to administer a shock to the victim which may restore the heartbeat in some instances.

  • Link Four: Early Advanced Care
    EMS arrives and provides advanced cardiac life support care to victim of sudden cardiac arrest. In addition, EMS may provide IV fluids, medications, and use advanced airway devices.

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is a serious cardiac event which occurs when something triggers and electrical malfunction that causes a victim to experience an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). Although cardiac arrest is often confused with heart attack, it is different and occurs suddenly often without warning. Cardiac arrest is reversible for most victims, if treated within minutes. Early recognition of signs and symptoms can improve a victim’s chance of survival.

Signs and Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest
  • Sudden loss of responsiveness (victim does not respond to tapping on shoulder)
  • Does not respond when asked, “Are you okay?”
  • Victim may experience one or all of the following symptoms:
    • Nausea
    • Sweating
    • Shortness of breath
    • Denial
    • Feeling of overall weakness
    • Chest discomfort-pressure, tightness that may or may not radiate to jaw and arms.
    • 1/3 of female victims do NOT experience chest pain and are more likely to experience shortness of breath, extreme fatigue or flu-like symptoms.

Treating Cardiac Arrest

If victim is NOT breathing:
  • Call or direct a bystander to call EMS
  • Retrieve AED
  • Check breathing
  • Perform CPR (if the victim is NOT breathing or only gasping)
    • Victims in cardiac arrest often have agonal breathing (also known as agonal gasps)
    • Agonal breaths do not provide adequate oxygen to the body and can be described as gurgling, moaning, snorting, agonal or labored breathing
    • Healthcare providers must be able to distinguish between agonal breathing and adequate breathing
  • Continue CPR Cycles until EMS or second rescuer takes over, AED becomes available or you are too tired to continue.
If victim is breathing:
  • Call or direct bystander to call EMS
  • Encourage victim to remain calm and in a comfortable position (recovery position if possible)
  • Offer 1 adult dose of aspirin
  • Stay with victim until EMS takes over

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood to the heart is blocked, most often by some type of fatty build up. A heart attack is the death or damage to the heart muscle and may lead to a victim’s death. A heart attack usually develops within the first 4 hours of after the onset of symptoms. A heart attack increases the chance of cardiac arrest in victims and unlike with a cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating. Early recognition of signs and symptoms can improve a victim’s chance of survival.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Attack
  • Pain, fullness, and/or squeezing sensation of the chest
  • Jaw pain, toothache, headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or general upper abdominal discomfort
  • Heartburn and/or indigestion
  • Arm pain (commonly in the left arm, but may be both)
  • Overall fatigue
  • Sweating
  • Some victims (about ¼ of all heart attacks) are silent, without chest pain or symptoms

**Women, the elderly and people with diabetes are more likely to have atypical signs of a heart attack – ache in the chest, heartburn or indigestion, or an overall uncomfortable feeling in the back, jaw, neck or shoulder.

Treating Heart Attack

If victim is NOT breathing:
  • Call or direct a bystander to call EMS
  • Retrieve AED
  • Check breathing
  • Perform CPR
  • Continue CPR Cycles until EMS or second rescuer takes over, AED becomes available, or you are too tired to continue
If victim IS breathing:
  • Call or direct bystander to call EMS
  • Encourage victim to remain calm and in a comfortable position (recovery position if possible)
  • Offer 1 adult dose of aspirin
  • Stay with victim until EMS arrives and takes over