February is American Heart Month


February is American Heart Month – a time to learn about your risks for heart disease and stroke and learn tips for staying “heart healthy.” Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States. It includes heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. Dr. Dave Krueger of the Yakima Heart Center talked about heart health on KIT 1280 on Feb. 10, 2015.

How big a problem is heart disease in the Yakima Valley?

Major cardiovascular diseases – heart disease and stroke – are the leading cause of death in Yakima County.

There are many risk factors associated with coronary heart disease and stroke. Some risk factors such as family history, ethnicity and age, cannot be changed.

Other risk factors that can be treated or changed include:

  • Smoking
  • high blood pressure or hypertension
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity
  • physical inactivity or lack of exercise
  • diabetes
  • unhealthy diets
  • harmful use of alcohol

High cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure are the three leading diseases we see here in Yakima County, and they increase a person’s risk for developing heart disease.

What steps should I take to prevent a heart attack or cardiovascular disease?

  • Get a checkup at least once a year, even if you feel healthy. Know your numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. That means exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, high-fiber foods and foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. For more information on eating a healthy diet, visit the Center for Disease Control’s tip page at choosemyplate.gov.
  • Take your medicine. Follow instructions carefully if you’re taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or any other condition.
  • Limit alcohol use and don’t smoke!

What should I do if I see that someone is having a heart attack?

If cardiopulmonary resuscitation is performed in the first moments after cardiac arrest, it doubles a person’s chance of survival. CPR keeps blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until emergency help arrives.

For untrained rescuers, the American Heart Association advises to begin CPR with chest compressions. Studies have shown that using chest compressions only is just as effective in re-starting a failing heart as doing the full version of CPR.

What about automated external defibrillators, or AEDs?

  • An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a computerized medical device.
  • It checks a person’s heart rhythm. It can recognize a rhythm that requires a shock. And it can advise the rescuer when a shock is needed.
  • The AED uses voice prompts, lights and text messages to tell the rescuer the steps to take.
  • AEDs are very accurate and easy to use.

Why are they useful?

During sudden cardiac arrest, the heart is often in a state of ventricular fibrillation (VF).  The ventricles are “fluttering” rather than pumping blood. CPR can help circulate oxygen-rich blood to the brain. However, according to the American Heart Association, to get the heart back into rhythm requires a shock from a defibrillator.

Simply put, AEDs can more than double the chance of survival for people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest.

Where can I find an AED?

AEDs are widely considered a public health tool and can be found in office buildings, malls, schools and sports stadiums.

What about an emergency where I don’t have assistance nearby?

There’s a downloadable app for mobile phones – the Pocket First Aid & CPR Smartphone App – available on iTunes. It’s been updated to reflect the latest guidelines for first aid, CPR and AED use by the American Heart Association and provides quick, clear first aid and CPR instructions from a user’s smartphone.

These instructions can help a user save a life in the event of an emergency.




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