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CNAs Caring for Those Who Are at Risk for a Heart Attack

Certified Nursing Assistants often have a better knowledge of the patients’ needs and requirements than the additional nursing staff.  Many will develop ongoing relationships with the patients as they have more one on one time with them than any other medical staff.  This is why it is important for CNAs to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

During the course of duty, you are required to maintain records of all the patients, which are referred to by the nursing staff. You have to be sure to document the correct information, which includes the vital signs and any changes you observe in the condition of the patient. It is your job as a Certified Nursing Assistant to inform the medical staff if the patient under your observation needs some emergency care.

Heart Attack Facts

The number one cause of death and disability in the United States and has killed more people then all of the cancers combined is Cardiovascular disease.  Although a heart attack can happen to almost anyone, it is more common in those who are over 65 years of age.  Which is the largest population of individuals that Certified Nursing Assistants care for.  In the US, someone will experience a coronary event every 26 seconds and around every minute an individual will die from one.

What is a Heart Attack?

A heart attack usually is caused by a blood clot that blocks the blood flow to the heart.  The heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die if the clot cuts off the blood flow completely. 

Preventing a Heart Attack

There are several lifestyle habits and traits that can significantly increase ones chance of having a heart attack.  However, there are some lifestyle habits that can be changed to greatly reduce your risk.

Knowing your Risks

Blood Pressure
Checking your blood pressure regularly and know your numbers.  One in three adults have high blood pressure, an estimated 73 million. 

Physical Activity
Being inactive and obesity can increase your risk.  Exercise for individuals in your care is very import.

Those who suffer with diabetes are more then twice as likely in developing heart problems then those without diabetes

Smoking and Alcohol Abuse
The chemicals found in cigarettes nicotine and carbon monoxide robs the heart of the oxygen it needs.  Smoking is one of the most preventable risk factors for heart problems. 

Alcohol has been shown to damage the cells of the heart, making it harder to pump.

High Cholesterol
Having a high cholesterol level can in crease your risk.  It is a major factor for Coronary artery disease.  A persons total cholesterol level should be less that 200mg/dL.  One in six people who are 20 years of age and older has high cholesterol. 

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

As a CNA it is important to be able to recognize the warning signs and to report them immediately.  You will need to know the proper protocol for your place of employment in the steps that you will need to take.  The warning signs can be both intense and sudden or can start with pain and mild aches that begin slowly. Noticing signs early and taking the appropriate action to manage them can help prevent more urgent problems.

Often times women’s unique warning signs were either misdiagnosed or unrecognized when they sought medical care.  Several have reported having warning signs a month prior to their heart attack.  Some of the most common early warning signs for women were

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances

Fatigue is one of the most common symptom of those with heart failure.  As a CNA it is important that the person who which you are caring for to alternate between activity and rest. 

Some warning signs of a heart attack include:
  • Any type of chest pain or discomfort that is new and lasts longer then 15 minutes
  • Having discomfort is other parts of the body such as the neck, jaw, arm or neck
  • Nausea and or Vomiting
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

Certified Nursing Assistants who want more information about heart disease can contact the

American Heart Association
214-373-6300 or 800-AHA-USA1

They can provide information and tools such as Answers by Heart.