February 14 is fast upon us and you fall into one of two camps: you either agree with the J. Geils Band that love stinks, or you are all about the chocolate and sweet nothings. History books will record the great NECCO Conversation Heart Tragedy of ’19, when the elementary school classic took a year off after the company changed hands. I’m not really sure how to ask you to be mine if I can’t do it with a peachy hued little gem of tooth-cracking pasty sugar with blurry words printed on it. These Dysfunctional Valentine Hearts appeal to my sense of humor.
When my older daughter was a pre-school age, her wonderful daycare provider was having a little Valentine party for the kids. My friend Marilyn and I joked about how we were going to out-supermom each other, and I spent hours late at night after my kids were asleep doing crafts (I am NOT a craft person) but I am pretty sure I won. These little felt pouches held Hershey kisses and little notes for each kid. I won, right?
All of this is the intro to what I really want to talk about today – not love and Valentines, but hearts. More particularly, heart health.
Do you know the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack? Did you think they were the same thing? (It’s ok to admit that, I think lots of people confuse the two).
Simply, cardiac arrest is an electrical problem and a heart attack is a circulation problem. With cardiac arrest, irregular heartbeat disrupts the heart’s pumping action and blood can’t get to the brain and other organs.
With a heart attack, a blockage in an artery prevents blood flow within the heart. Even though they are different health events, they are connected in that heart attacks can sometimes lead to cardiac arrest.
You have probably heard that heart attacks present differently in women than they do in men, but do you know the difference? For women, signs include nausea and vomiting, back or jaw pain, and a little thing called shortness of breath. If you (like me!) thought that shortness of breath was like that feeling after you just ran the Corporate Challenge and are totally out of breath, you are wrong. Shortness of breath actually feels like you can’t take deep breaths (I know this first hand, it’s ok to ask me next time you see me, and no, I did not have a heart attack). For men, it’s more like Redd Foxx on Sanford & Son – “I’m coming, Elizabeth!” with the sudden onset and intense chest pain (plus shortness of breath, nausea, etc.).
Whether it’s cardiac arrest or a heart attack, the first thing to do is call 911. The sooner medical intervention starts, the more likely it is that the person will have a positive outcome. I strongly encourage you to learn CPR so that if you ever find yourself in a situation where that skill is needed, you will be prepared. If you are reluctant because you still think of CPR as including mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, I have great news for you – we have gone the way of hands only CPR. Many places of business have AED devices (Automated External Defibrillators) and the machines literally talk you through each step so even if you are completely flustered by the situation, the robot voice will still help you help someone having cardiac arrest.
If you have a family history of heart disease, or if you have risk factors like smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise, you can still take control of your health and start some heart-healthy habits to reduce your overall risk of cardiac arrest or heart attack. You should always talk to your doctor first, but changes to your diet (more leafy greens, fewer Baconator sandwiches at the Fair) and an exercise regimen will go a long way toward helping YOU go a long way in life. Your friends, family, and your lawyer all agree – you’re worth it.