February is Heart Month!
February is Heart Month – a month dedicated to raising awareness around the importance of good heart health and preventing heart disease and other cardiovascular emergencies.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Canada, and it occurs in people of all ages and levels of health. Although some factors are uncontrollable, everyone can take certain steps to lower the chance of heart disease in themselves and their loved ones.
The Cardiovascular System
The cardiovascular system is made up of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels (arteries, veins, and capillaries). It delivers oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and carries waste to the organs responsible for elimination. The circulatory system maintains life.
Almost all cardiovascular emergencies are caused by a lack of oxygen and blood circulating to the body’s major organs. The most serious emergencies include strokes and heart attacks.
Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Emergencies
When it comes to decreasing the risk of cardiovascular emergencies and heart disease, there are some risk factors that remain out of our control. These are:
- Family History
These factors may increase your risk of heart disease and cardiovascular emergencies, and there is nothing that can be done to change them.
However, there are a number of things you CAN do to decrease the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular emergency. These are:
- Consistent daily exercise
- Take care of any diabetic issues
- Maintain low blood pressure
- Avoid smoking
- Maintain low cholesterol
- Reduce stress
This is why Heart Month is so important. We need to bring awareness to these issues and encourage everyone to make the necessary changes to have a healthier heart. That’s why this month, we are sharing Heart Health tips on our social media pages. Check them out here!
The heart delivers nourishment to the entire body by pumping blood and oxygen through the blood vessels. The 4 parts of the heart are:
- Right atria (pulls used blood and carbon dioxide products from the body)
- Left atria (pulls oxygen-rich blood from the lungs)
- Right ventricle (pushes the blood to the lungs for the exchange of gases)
- Left ventricle (pushes the oxygenated blood out to the body)
The heart is a complicated machine that keeps the entire body beating with life. Like any machine with moving parts, the heart is subject to malfunctions that can be dangerous, and in some cases even fatal. There are four heart emergencies we would like to shed light on during Heart Month: angina, heart attacks, sudden cardiac arrest, and strokes.
Angina is a partial blockage of oxygenated blood in the circulatory system. It can be caused by physical exertion, severe emotional stress, exposure to extreme temperatures, and smoking. The signs and symptoms are mild chest discomfort or shortness of breath (usually occurring during physical exertion), and they typically last 5-15 minutes. To treat angina, you can perform ESM (if First Aid certified), put the patient in a comfortable resting position, assist with medication (ASA or N/G), and call Emergency Services if pain or discomfort does not subside.
A heart attack occurs when there is a complete blockage of oxygenated blood to the heart. Heart attacks can be caused by blunt chest injuries, hypothermia, drowning, electrocution, poisoning, or drug overdoses. Someone having a heart attack may have chest discomfort (which may spread to the arms, jaw, face, and neck), blueness of the lips, may be frightened, anxious, or in denial, have pale or sweaty skin, experience shortness of breath, suddenly become dizzy or unconscious, and their breathing and heart rate may stop abruptly. To treat a heart attack, perform ESM (if First Aid certified), suggest the casualty take ASA if there is no bleeding or allergy, comfort and reassure the casualty, maintain ABCs and perform ongoing care.
Sudden Cardiac Arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating or pumping blood effectively. Like heart attacks, sudden cardiac arrest can be caused by blunt chest injuries, hypothermia, drowning, electrocution, poisoning, or drug overdoses. This heart emergency results in the circulation of blood and oxygen to the major organs ceasing. The brain is most susceptible to this lack of oxygen – irreversible brain damage will occur within approximately 4-6 minutes. Someone suffering from sudden cardiac arrest will suddenly look very ill and will become unresponsive, experience a change in skin colour as they stop breathing, and appear lifeless as their circulation disappears. To treat someone suffering from cardiac arrest, perform ESM (if First Aid certified) and utilize an AED if possible.
A stroke can occur as a result of blockage or rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. If intervention is not provided in a timely manner, the brain tissue will die. However, if rapid intervention is provided, the effects of a stroke may be reversed.
A stroke is caused by a fatty deposit or “plaque” inside a blood vessel, which causes a lack of circulation to the areas of the brain the blood vessel supplies. It is also possible that a blood clot breaks away and is swept into an artery (traveling to the brain and resulting in a sudden blockage), or an artery bursts and bleeding occurs into the brain tissue. The signs and symptoms of a stroke can be identified using the acronym F.A.S.T. (Facial droop, arm drift, speech impairment, time to get help immediately). Other signs may be vomiting, dizziness, seizure, or loss of consciousness.
To treat a stroke, perform ESM (if First Aid certified), keep the casualty calm, position the casualty in an appropriate position (i.e., recovery, semi-sitting), maintain and monitor ABCs and vital signs, maintain normal body temperature, provide nothing to eat or drink, gather medical information at the time of the incident, and note the time of stroke signs/symptoms onset if known.
What Can You Do?
What Can We Do for Others Suffering from Heart Disease?
Heart Month is the perfect time to do your part to help those currently suffering from heart disease.
You might consider donating to an organization like The Heart and Stroke Foundation. heartandstroke.ca gives you the option to donate once, monthly, or in memory of someone. You can also donate blood to assist in research, or donate your old car to fund research. Learn more here.
At Heartzap Safety we are also dedicated to helping those who struggle with heart disease, and preparing for potential heart emergencies. It is a good time for you to get first aid certified. In the event of a heart emergency, it could mean the difference between life and death. We have blended online and standard in-person courses available at our locations in Cambridge and North Bay. Click here for the full schedule.
Get Involved in Heart Month
There are many ways to get involved in Heart Month, all that’s left to do is choose how you will get involved! Whatever you’re doing to get involved, remember that it’s making a difference. Every little action helps.