BY RANDY DEVAUL
The heart is a muscular pump that beats 100,000 times a day to distribute 2,000 gallons of blood throughout the body every day. A healthy 70-year-old’s heart will have beaten more than two billion times! For all that work, it’s important to take care of that pump and to recognize when something is wrong with it.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov) states that each year, about 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack. About 460,000 of those heart attacks are fatal. About half of those deaths occur within 1 hour of the start of symptoms and before the person reaches the hospital. It is critical to identify when someone is having heart trouble so you can call for help as soon as possible.
An “angina attack” occurs when placing the body under emotional or physical stress, causing the need for oxygen to rise. Restricted or partially-blocked arteries, mainly due to a build up of cholesterol or plaque, won’t allow enough oxygen to get through, causing chest pain.
Unlike angina, a person does not have to be doing anything strenuous to experience a heart attack. If the blood flow is stopped, such as from a blood clot in a coronary artery, the oxygen-deprived muscle begins to die. In medical terms, this is called an Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI), interpreted to mean a sudden onset of death to the heart muscle (a heart attack).
What are the signs and symptoms of a person having a heart attack? The person will start to feel “discomfort” in the center of the chest, just under the breastbone. It can follow with a sensation of a squeezing or pressure, like someone is sitting on the chest. Some people will believe it is simply indigestion. Pain can radiate outward from the center of the chest into the shoulder, arm, neck, and jaw, generally on the left side of the body.
The person will turn ashen or pale, the skin will feel cool to the touch, and he will begin to sweat profusely. These are the tell-tale signs of shock. The patient may credit the sweating to a particularly humid day or from feeling uncomfortable. The chest pain results in feeling short of breath. The patient may be nauseous or vomiting.
If the person sits down to rest and is actually experiencing a heart attack, the pain will not let up but will continue longer than five minutes. If these signs and symptoms are present, call 9-1-1 immediately! Do not try to drive yourself (if you are the patient) or the patient to the hospital. Call 9-1-1!
Help the patient to sit (not lie) down and get in a comfortable position. Do not give the person anything to drink as this may cause vomiting.
If you are not trained in CPR, contact the American Red Cross or American Heart Association for class schedules. Learning CPR will also provide training to recognize the signs of a heart attack. That knowledge may just save a life—possibly yours!
Randy DeVaul, is an internationally published writer and author, with more than 20 years in safety and emergency response services. He has authored three performance-based safety books and is now writing The Ultimate Home Survival Guide: Protecting Your Family In and From Your Home. firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Valentine Gift for your Kids:
Heart disease begins in childhood. Whether or not your family has a history of heart disease, it’s important to help your children reduce their future risks. Mayo Clinic specialists in cardiology who contributed to the “Mayo Clinic Heart Book” provide these tips to help lower the risk of heart disease in children:
1. Choose healthy foods. The best way to get your children to make heart-healthy food choices is to set an example. To make sure they’re doing what you want them to do, take an inventory of your own eating habits.
2. Become more active. If your kids are couch potatoes and you don’t know what to do, take heart. You can find plenty of ways to get them up and moving—and increase their chances of growing into heart-healthy adults.
3. Lead by example, then invite your children to share in the exercise.
4. Plan family outings. Involve your family in outdoor activities such as hiking, bicycling, or swimming.
5. Give them household chores. Many chores require physical exertion, such as mowing lawns, raking leaves, scrubbing floors, and taking out the garbage.
6. Stop smoking. Children are more likely to smoke if their parents smoke — and the younger they start, the more likely they’ll be heavy smokers later. Second-hand smoke is linked to increased risk of heart disease, cancer, asthma, infant pneumonia and respiratory failure.
Approximately one in five children in the United States between the ages of six and 17 are overweight. Being overweight puts them at greater risk at a younger age for developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, gallbladder disease, arthritis, and certain cancers.
To learn more about heart-healthy habits, Mayo is offering a free booklet, “Healthy Meals for Hurried Lives.” Write to Mayo Communications—Healthy Heart booklet offer—OE-6, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905.