Cardiac arrest, heart attacks and strokes are some of the biggest killers in America. While most of us are aware of this and know that we should stay healthy and watch for signs of these three killers, do we really follow any health or safety guidelines? February is American Heart Month and the American Heart Association wants us all to be aware of warning signs and actions to take in case of emergency. This is close to heart (pardon the pun) as my family has a long history of stroke and heart problems. Warning signs, emergency procedures and preventative measures are something I know and would love to share with as many people as possible this year.
Heart attacks are when part of your heart muscle dies or is damaged due to a lack of oxygen. Most heart attacks are caused by a blockage in an artery or by blood clots in the arteries. Risk factors that can contribute to a heart attack include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of exercise, family history, race and sex. While there is no way to be 100% sure who is and is not going to have a heart attack, if one or more of these risk factors are present, then your chances of a heart attack are higher. Heart attack can result in death or in a weakening of the heart which can cause further heart attacks and death.
A stroke is caused by a blockage in an artery that carries blood to the brain. This blockage can result in damage to the brain and loss of function or control in parts of your body. Stroke can cause paralysis in your face or body, loss of speech or sight. This damage can be partial or complete, temporary or permanent. Stroke can also result in death. Risk factors for stroke include uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, heart disease and hardening of the arteries.
Cardiac arrest is the stopping of the heart which can, obviously, result in death. Cardiac arrest can be the result of other things such as a heart attack but can also strike immediately and without warning.
Signs of a heart attack are pain in the chest (sometimes sudden and severe and sometimes gradual), shortness of breath, pain in your jaw or arms and shoulders, cold sweat, nausea and vomiting, tightness and pressure in your chest and even back pain. While all of these symptoms could have other explanations, they could also mean that a heart attack is occurring.
Signs of a stroke are a sudden weakness or numbness in the face, arms or legs or on one side of the body. Sudden dimness or loss of vision, especially in one eye. Loss of speech, trouble speaking or trouble comprehending speech. Sudden severe headaches with no known cause. Unexplained dizziness, unstable walking or falling, especially if combined with any of the other warning signs. All of these signs should be taken seriously and not ignored.
Cardiac arrest happens fast and with no warning. Signs of a cardiac arrest are a sudden lack of responsiveness where the victim does not respond to shaking or tapping on their shoulder and a lack of normal breathing where the victim does not take a normal breath when they should. Cardiac arrest can occur in seemingly healthy people with no other signs or symptoms.
Do not ignore these symptoms! Warning signs are there for a reason. Our body is trying to tell us that something is wrong.
The action to take in any of these situations is simple. Call 911. Do not try to drive yourself or someone else to the doctor or emergency room if you suspect they are suffering from any of these. The time you waste could mean life or death. Call 911 and follow the directions of the operator. If you do not have access to a telephone, drive to the nearest phone and call 911. Minutes can mean the difference between life and death and can also lead to a better recovery. Again, I repeat, call 911 if these symptoms occur in you or someone you know. Even if you are not positive that these symptoms mean a heart attack or stroke, call 911 anyway. It is better to be safe and feel silly than to take a chance and feel sorry later.
Cardiac arrest is something that occurs without warning. The best way to prevent cardiac arrest is to be healthy. Follow the guidelines for preventing heart attacks and strokes.
Both heart attacks and strokes can be prevented through following some basic healthy advice. Here are some tips to help prevent both of these. Even if you do not feel that you are at risk for a heart attack or stroke, you should still try to stay healthy bu following these suggestions. You never know when your health is at risk.
See a doctor regularly – Your doctor needs to know what your body is like when it is healthy as well as when you are sick. This way they can see changes before you might notice them yourself.
Reach a healthy weight – Being obese can contribute to your risk of both heart attacks and strokes. Speak to your doctor about ways to lose weight in a healthy manner and the benefits to your health.
Keep your diabetes under control.
Keep your blood pressure under control. Follow your doctor’s advice to control blood pressure.
Lower your cholesterol through diet and your doctors advice.
Avoid foods high in fat and eat less sodium. Eat a healthy and well balanced diet.
Limit your consumption of alcohol.
Exercise – Try to start small if you are not used to exercising but work your way up to at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 4 times per week.
STOP SMOKING! This should be one of your first steps if you are a smoker. Speak to your doctor to get help if you need it. Do not start smoking if you don’t smoke now.
The most important way to prevent any of these things is to be aware of your own body. Pay attention to what it is telling you. Listen to warning signs and to your doctor. Eat, work and play healthy and you will most likely avoid having to make that call to 911.