Anatomy and Health Risks

Anatomy

The lungs, heart and brain function interdependently.  Appropriate oxygen and blood supply are crucial components of healthy functioning. 
The Cardiovascular System includes the heart, arteries, capillaries and veins.  Responsible for carrying blood throughout the body. 

Heart
  • A healthy heart has four chambers
  • About the size of the fist
  • Located just under the breastbone, on the left side of the chest
  • Pumps the blood to the brain, lungs and throughout the body
Signs of Cardiovascular Failure:  
  • Angina - condition of marked pain caused by inadequate blood supply to the heart
  • Heart attack - acute myocardial infarction (AMI)
The Respiratory System is made up of the organs in the body that help patients breathe.  Includes the lungs, nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, trachea, bronchi, bronchioles, alveoli and diaphragm. 

Lungs
  • A healthy patient has two lungs
  • Breathing through the lungs delivers oxygen to the body and takes carbon dioxide away from the body.
Signs of Respiratory Distress:  
  • Hypoxia - oxygen deficiency in the tissues
  • Airway obstruction
  • Agonal gasps - abnormal, labored and inadequate breathing (gasps, spasms and strange vocalizations)
  • Rapid, deep or irregular breathing
  • Cyanosis - bluish discoloration of the skin due to inadequate oxygenation or poor circulation
The Nervous System is made up of the brain, spinal cord, sensory organs and all of the nerves that connect these organs to the rest of the body. 

Brain 
  • Sends signals to tell the body what to do
  • Brain cells need oxygen for survival
  • Controls respiration and circulation 
Signs of Nervous System Disruption:  
  • Stroke

Cardiovascular Disease

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   
  • Obesity
  • 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
  • Safety

***Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death worldwide

Cardiac Arrest

Cardiac arrest is a serious cardiac event.  Although cardiac arrest is often confused with heart attack, it is different.  Cardiac arrest occurs suddenly and often without warning.  It is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).  Cardiac arrest is reversible for most patients, if treated within minutes.  Early recognition of signs and symptoms can improve a patient’s chance of survival.  Survival rates after a cardiac arrest decrease by 7%-10% for every minute defibrillation is delayed. 

Signs and Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest

  • Sudden loss of responsiveness (patient does not respond to tapping on shoulder)
  • Does not respond when asked, “Are you okay?”
  • Patient 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 patients do NOT experience chest pain and are more likely to experience shortness of breath, extreme fatigue or flu-like symptoms

Treating Cardiac Arrest

    If patient is NOT breathing:

  • Call or direct a bystander to call 911
  • Retrieve AED, if available
  • Check breathing
  • Begin CPR (if the patient is NOT breathing on only gasping)
    • Patients in cardiac arrest often have agonal gasps
    • Agonal gasps do not provide adequate oxygen to the body and can be described as snoring, gurgling, moaning, snorting, agonal or labored breathing
    • Healthcare providers must be able to distinguish between agonal gasps and adequate breathing
  • Continue CPR cycles until EMS or second rescuer takes over, AED becomes available or you are too tired to continue 

    If patient is breathing:

  • Call or direct bystander to call 911
  • Encourage patient to remain calm and in a comfortable position (recovery position if possible)
  • Offer 1 adult dose or two low dose of aspirin, if no known allergy
  • Stay with patient until EMS arrives
  • If patient becomes unresponsive - begin CPR

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 patient’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 patients and unlike with a cardiac arrest, the heart usually does not stop beating.  Early recognition of signs and symptoms can improve a patient’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 patients (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 a Heart Attack

   If patient is NOT breathing:

  • Call or direct a bystander to call 911
  • Retrieve AED, if available
  • Check breathing
  • Begin CPR (if the patient is NOT breathing on only gasping)
    • Patients in cardiac arrest often have agonal gasps
    • Agonal gasps do not provide adequate oxygen to the body and can be described as snoring, gurgling, moaning, snorting, agonal or labored breathing
    • Healthcare providers must be able to distinguish between agonal gasps and adequate breathing
  • Continue CPR cycles until EMS or second rescuer takes over, AED becomes available or you are too tired to continue 

    If patient is breathing:

  • Call or direct bystander to call 911
  • Encourage patient to remain calm and in a comfortable position (recovery position if possible)
  • Offer 1 adult dose or two low dose of aspirin, if no known allergy
  • Stay with patient until EMS arrives
  • If patient becomes unresponsive - begin CPR

Stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the patient’s brain is interrupted or severely reduced by a blood clot, which deprives the brain tissue of oxygen and vital nutrients.  A stroke is sometimes called a “brain attack”.  Early recognition of signs and symptoms can improve a patient’s chance of survival.  

Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

  • Facial droop
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the arm, leg or face – especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding 
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss balance/coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

    FAST Stroke Assessment: 

  • F – Facial drop
  • A - Arm weakness
  • S – Speech difficulty
  • T – Time to call 911

Treating a Stroke

    Recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke. 

  • Call or direct a bystander to call 911
  • Do NOT give the patient anything to eat or drink
  • Encourage the patient to remain calm and quiet
  • Monitor patient and be prepared to perform CPR
  • Most strokes are preventable – see cardiovascular controllable risk factors
    • More than half of strokes are caused by uncontrolled hypertension or high blood pressure making it the most important risk factor to control
  • Medical treatments may be used to control high blood pressure and/or manage atrial fibrillation among high-risk patients
  • Carotid endarterectomy (removal of blockages in artery)
  • Angioplasty/stents (opening of blocked blood vessel)
  • If patient becomes unresponsive –begin CPR
  • Continue CPR cycle until a second rescuer or EMS arrives and takes over, or you are too tired to continue