|SPRINGFIELD The American Heart Association's (AHA) Operation Winter Weather Warnings recently launched an educational campaign targeted to individuals with existing heart disease or stroke, and those who may be at high risk. This includes individuals with a strong family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smokers, those who are overweight and the sedentary. |
Deaths from coronary artery disease tend to rise rapidly right after Thanksgiving, continuing through Christmas, peaking around New Year's Day. Several factors may influence this unfortunate trend, from an increase in respiratory infections during the winter, to increased workload on the heart from activities such as shoveling of heavy snow.
The AHA recommends the following tips to help respond to and prevent sudden cardiac arrest:
- Learn CPR and/or hands-only CPR
About 80 percent of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in private residential settings, so being trained to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can mean the difference between life and death for a loved one. Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after cardiac arrest, can double a victim's chance of survival. The AHA conducts courses convenient to everyone. To access a course listing, log on to www.americanheart.org/eccclassconnector.
Hands-only CPR is CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths. It is recommended for use by people who see an adult suddenly collapse in the "out-of-hospital" setting. It offers an easy to remember and effective option to those bystanders who have been previously trained in CPR but are afraid to help because they are not confident that they can remember and perform the steps of conventional CPR.
It consists of two steps: call 911 (or send someone to do that), and begin providing high-quality chest compressions by pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest with minimal interruptions.
For additional information on hands-only CPR and to watch an instructional video visit www.handsonlycpr.org.
- Avoid sudden cold weather exertion.
If you are normally sedentary, are in poor physical condition or have risk factors, snow shoveling may be inadvisable for your health. Everyone who must be outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting a heavy shovel full of snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snowdrifts can strain a person's heart.
- Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia.
Hypothermia occurs when your body can't produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough, causing it to fall below normal. Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. Symptoms include lack of coordination, mental confusion, slowed reactions, shivering and sleepiness.
Children, the elderly and those with heart disease are at special risk. Because elderly people seem to be relatively insensitive to moderately cold conditions, they can suffer hypothermia without knowing they're in danger.
- Stay warm.
People with coronary heart disease often suffer chest pain or discomfort called angina pectoris when they're in cold weather. High winds, snow and rain also can steal body heat.
To keep warm, wear layers of clothing. This traps air between layers, forming a protective insulation. Also, wear a hat or headscarf. Much of your body's heat can be lost through your head and ears are especially prone to frostbite. Keep your hands and feet warm, too, as they tend to lose heat rapidly.
About the American Heart Association: Founded in 1924, it is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. To help prevent, treat and defeat these diseases America's number one and number three killers the AHA funds cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health. To learn more or join us in helping all Americans, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit americanheart.org.
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