Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I want to thank everyone for your interest in and comments about my first series addressing health issues.
This will be the last of the series on Heart Disease. Again, if there is a health issue that you would like to see addressed, leave a comment or e-mail me and I will see what I can come up with.



Heart disease is the number 1 killer in the United States. Each year, almost half a million Americans die from a heart attack. Half of these, or one quarter of a million people, will die suddenly, outside of the hospital, because their heart stops beating.

* The most common cause of death from a heart attack in adults is a disturbance in the electrical rhythm of the heart called ventricular fibrillation.

o Ventricular fibrillation can be treated, but it requires applying an electrical shock to the chest called defibrillation.

o If a defibrillator is not readily available, brain death will occur in less than 10 minutes.

* One way of buying time until a defibrillator becomes available is to provide artificial breathing and circulation by performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.

o The earlier you give CPR to a person in cardiopulmonary arrest (no breathing, no heartbeat), the greater the chance of a successful resuscitation.

o By performing CPR, you keep oxygenated blood flowing to the heart and brain until a defibrillator becomes available.

* Because up to 80% of all cardiac arrests occur in the home, you are most likely to perform CPR on a family member or loved one.

* CPR is one link in what the American Heart Association calls the "chain of survival." The chain of survival is a series of actions that, when performed in sequence, will give a person having a heart attack the greatest chance of survival.

o When an emergency situation is recognized, the first link in the chain of survival is early access. This means activating the emergency medical services, or EMS, system by calling 911 (check your community plan, some communities require dialing a different number).

o The next link in the chain of survival is to perform CPR until a defibrillator becomes available.

o In some areas of the country, simple, computerized defibrillators, known as automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, may be available for use by the lay public or first person on the scene. If available, early defibrillation becomes the next link in the chain of survival.

o Once the EMS unit arrives, the next link in the chain of survival is early advanced life support care. This involves administering medications, using special breathing devices, and providing additional defibrillation shocks if needed.

NOTE: This reference is only intended to serve as a guideline for learning about CPR. It is not intended to be a replacement for a formal CPR course. If you are interested in taking a CPR course contact the American Heart Association at (800) AHA-USA1, or the American Red Cross by phoning your local chapter. Never practice CPR on another person, because bodily damage can occur.

Learn CPR for a loved one.

How to Take Heart Medication

Your doctor may prescribe a variety of heart medications you can take to treat or prevent heart disease. These drugs may help lower your blood pressure, reduce the level of cholesterol in your blood, or help your body get rid of excess fluids that put a strain on your heart's ability to pump blood.

Heart medication needs vary for each person. Whatever the treatment protocol prescribed to you, it is a good idea to keep the following guidelines in mind when you're taking heart disease medication.

Here are some tips for taking drugs for your heart disease:

* Know the names of your heart medications and how they work. Know the generic and brand names, dosages, and side effects of your medications. Always keep a list of your medications with you.
* Take your heart medications as scheduled, at the same time every day. Do not stop taking or change your medications unless you first talk with your doctor. Even if you feel good, continue to take your medications. Stopping your medications suddenly can make your condition worse.
* Have a routine for taking your heart medications. Get a pillbox that is marked with the days of the week. Fill the pillbox at the beginning of each week to make it easier for you to remember.
* Keep a medicine calendar and note every time you take a dose. Your prescription label tells you how much to take at each dose, but your doctor may change your dosage periodically, depending on your response to the medication. On your medication calendar, you can list any changes in your drug dosages as prescribed by your doctor.
* Do not decrease your drug dosage to save money. You must take the full amount to get the full benefits. Talk with your doctor about ways you can reduce the costs of your medications.
* Do not take any over-the-counter drugs or herbal therapies unless you ask your doctor first. Some drugs, such as antacids, salt substitutes, antihistamines (including Benadryl and Dimetapp), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs, such as Advil, Motrin, and Indocin), can worsen heart failure symptoms.
* If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, ask your doctor about skipping versus making up the missed dose.
* Regularly fill your prescriptions and ask your pharmacist any questions you have. Do not wait until you are completely out of medication before filling your prescriptions. If you have trouble getting to the pharmacy, have financial concerns, or have other problems that make it difficult for you to get your heart drugs, let your doctor know.
* When traveling, keep your medications with you so you can take them as scheduled. On longer trips, take an extra week's supply of medications and copies of your prescriptions, in case you need to get a refill.
* Before having surgery with a general anesthetic, including dental surgery, tell the doctor or dentist in charge what heart drugs you are taking. An antibiotic may need to be prescribed prior to your surgical or dental procedure.
* Some heart drugs may alter your heart rate, so take your pulse regularly.
* Medications that relax constricted blood vessels may cause dizziness. If you experience dizziness when standing or getting out of bed, sit or lie down for a few minutes, then get up more slowly.

Heart Disease: Living with Heart Disease

Coronary artery disease is a chronic disease with no cure. When you have coronary artery disease, it is important to take good care of your heart for the rest of your life. This is especially true if you have had an interventional procedure or surgery to improve blood flow to the heart. Procedures do not cure coronary artery disease. It is up to you to take steps to stop the disease from progressing.

Here are some steps you can take to make living with heart disease easier:

* Recognize the symptoms. Call your doctor if symptoms become more frequent or severe. Call for emergency assistance if rest and/or medications do not relieve symptoms after 15 minutes. DO NOT WAIT TO GET HELP!
* Reduce your risk factors. The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk for future heart problems.
* Take your medications. Your medications are used to control your symptoms and help your heart work more efficiently. Follow your doctor's instructions when you take your medications.
* See your doctor for regular check-ups. Schedule regular appointments with your primary doctor and/or your heart doctor (even if you have no symptoms). Your appointments may be spaced once a year or more often if your doctor feels you need to be followed more closely.

How Can I Reduce My Risk Factors?

Making the necessary lifestyle changes is not easy. It takes dedication and discipline to quit smoking, eat right, and master techniques to ease stress. The following tips may help get you started. But, it's a good idea to seek help from dieticians, doctors and support groups to keep you on track.

Regardless of the lifestyle change you are trying to make:

* Have a plan before starting.
* Create realistic goals for yourself.
* Master one change at a time (for example, quit smoking before changing your diet).
* Write a formal or informal contract to strengthen your commitment to make the necessary lifestyle changes.
* Prepare for lapses and relapses. Don't be too hard on yourself when this happens.
* Be sure to reward yourself when you do well (this doesn't mean treating yourself to a hamburger and fries).
* Make sure you have plenty of support from your friends and family. Seek the help of support groups. Also, talk to your doctor about participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program.