Guest post by Ellisa Lee BS, RN, EMT, Training Director, Prestige Medical Solutions
February is Heart Health Month. With Valentine’s Day coming, the heart we may be thinking of may not be the most important one. Besides being thought of as an instrument of love, the heart is a vital organ that plays a very important role in sustaining life. As a refresher, here’s a quick review of the basic anatomy of the heart.
The heart is the key organ in the circulatory system. It is typically the size of a closed fist. As a hollow, muscular pump, its main function is to propel blood throughout the body. The right side of the heart is responsible for receiving oxygen-poor blood and then pumping that oxygen-poor blood through the pulmonary artery and into the lungs. The oxygen-rich blood then re-enters the heart through the pulmonary vein and into the left atrium. It is then pumped into the left ventricle and then to the body through the aorta.
The heart has four chambers and four valves responsible for controlling blood flow through the heart. Click here to see diagrams of heart valves and circulation.
Blood Pressure -What Do the Numbers Mean?
Many of us hear the hype about high blood pressure and the ill effects on the heart. The heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle, overexertion may cause the muscle to become fatigued and not function to capacity. Because the heart is a vital organ, overexertion can have a detrimental effect on the body overall. Know the numbers and when you should be concerned.
The top number in a blood pressure reading is the “systolic”. This number is a measurement of the how often the heart is contracting and pushing blood through the arteries to the rest of the body.
The bottom number is the “diastolic” pressure. This number accounts for the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.
This blood pressure chart below reflects categories defined by the American Heart Association.
Here are some common diseases associated with the heart disease:
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Heart Attack
- Arrhythmias (such as AFIB)
Occasionally, there is confusion between sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when there is an insufficient oxygen supply to the heart which can cause heart tissue to start to die. When someone is experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest, the heart actually stops. Click here to view the warning signs.
Here are some tips to help keep your heart healthy:
- Get enough sleep
- Get a comprehensive physical from your family physician
- You are what you eat; cut the salt and slash the saturated fats
- Choose healthy snacks
- Manage your weight
- Sit less, step more
- Stop smoking (Yes, this includes e-cigarettes.)
- Manage stress
When we, as professionals, promote healthy living and encourage lifestyle changes, we empower individuals to lean toward prevention rather than seeking intervention. By starting to change the way we think about heart health, we begin to take positive steps to improve prognosis and decrease exacerbations and hospital readmissions.
CPR – Learn it!
So what does CPR have to do with heart health, you may ask? A healthy heart beats about 100,000 times per day. Even well-oiled machines can malfunction. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), nearly 326,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur annually, and 88 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home. In addition, effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, but only 32 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander. Sadly, less than eight percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive according to AHA’s data. http://cpr.heart.org/AHAECC/CPRAndECC/AboutCPRFirstAid/CPRFactsAndStats/UCM_475748_CPR-Facts-and-Stats.jsp
As a CPR Instructor, I often hear that many people fear being sued for “doing something wrong”. Many organizations, including my own, have taken an initiative to encourage people in the community to learn “hands only” CPR, dispel the myth of causing more harm and being sued for attempting CPR, as well as to help people understand the importance of learning CPR in case of an emergency. Bystander CPR is less likely to be performed in low income and minority communities. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1110700#t=article
It is these communities where heart disease is the most prevalent. While it is important to provide education in these communities regarding risk factors and ways to decrease those risk factors; it is equally important to provide education regarding the importance of bystander CPR. Unfortunately, we cannot always predict emergencies; however, we can equip the community the tools needed to assist and in turn help increase survival rates.
So as you can see, your heart does not just determine with whom you fall in love; it keeps you alive and well! Take care of your heart, and it will take care of you.
For more information and heart healthy tips:
- The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations
- CPR Facts & Stats
- CDC Heart Disease Fact Sheet
- Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest Difference
- Healthy Snacking