It’s American Heart Health Month

February is American Heart Health Month, making this an opportune time to learn more about cardiovascular occurrence and lifestyle modifications you can make at any age to help lower your risk from experiencing a cardiovascular emergency.

By GEORGE ADESINA, MD, MSPH, FACC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would like to focus on a sometimes-misunderstood cardiovascular event: cardiac arrest. I’ll start by debunking five common myths about sudden cardiac arrest to help raise awareness and increase the chances of survival.

  1. Sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack are synonymous.

No, they are two different medical emergencies.

  1. Sudden cardiac arrest won’t happen to anyone I know.

It’s a leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide. It could impact loved ones, coworkers, or a stranger you just met.

  1. I’m not trained, so there’s nothing I can do to help.

Yes, you can. Call 911. The most important thing you can do is to ensure emergency services arrive as quickly as possible. If you’re at a business location, having quick access to an automated external defibrillator (AED) could help save someone’s life.

  1. Someone else is going to help.

Some bystanders assume someone else is going to call 911. Others might mistakenly assume it isn’t an actual emergency. Take it upon yourself to act and do it quickly.

  1. I’m not old, so sudden cardiac arrest isn’t a concern.

Sudden cardiac arrest can affect people of all ages. While the risk does increase with age, it’s important to recognize that age isn’t the sole determining factor.

What is a true cardiac arrest?

It’s usually an electrical disturbance that quickly and unexpectedly causes your heart to stop working. This sudden, unexpected loss of heart function also results in a sudden loss of breathing and consciousness.

Death can result quickly if steps aren’t taken right away. However, cardiac arrest can sometimes be reversed if CPR is performed, and a defibrillator shocks the heart and restores a normal heart rhythm within a few minutes. However, these need to be performed without delay. Otherwise, the outcome can prove tragic.

Cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack, although almost any known heart condition, including heart attack, can cause cardiac arrest.

What is a heart attack?

Unlike cardiac arrest, a heart attack occurs when circulation is blocked or cut off and blood is no longer supplied to the heart muscle. We physicians may refer to a heart attack as myocardial infarction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blockages causing heart attacks are mostly caused by a buildup of plaque in the arteries. Plaque forms when cholesterol combines with fat, calcium, and other substances in the blood. When combined, these elements harden into plaque, which can then rupture, causing a blood clot to form. Large clots can completely block the flow of blood through an artery.

Here’s what you can do to help reduce your risk factors.

  • Commit to regular, but sensible, exercise regimen most days of the week. (Please check with a doctor before starting an exercise program.)
  • Avoid nicotine use in any form.
  • Reduce salt intake, commit to a high-fiber diet, and manage your weight.
  • Have regular medical evaluations that include checking blood pressure, cholesterol, and, if the physician feels the need, glucose levels. If so indicated, a cardiologist may choose additional diagnostic tests to further assess your cardiovascular condition.

Let me close by emphasizing: Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for adults in the United States. It’s never too soon to start improving your health and a good start is to have an in-clinic medical evaluation to help determine if you have potential cardiovascular risk factors.

Dr. Adesina is a board-certified Cardiology specialist caring for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Bay Area Campus (formerly Clear Lake Clinic) and Pearland Clinic.

Schedule appointments 24/7 by calling 713-442-0000, or self-schedule an in-person appointment or Video Visit online at kelsey-seybold.com.

 

Published February 5, 2024

Author George Adesina, MD, MSPH, FACC