By: Lori Blanchard Eaton, NP-C
Were you watching the NFL playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals on January 23? If so, you may have witnessed Damar Hamlin, a healthy athlete, collapse on the football field from a rare cardiac event. Fortunately, responsive CPR on this otherwise healthy athlete led to a successful recovery. Timely CPR saves lives and I’m thankful this outcome has turned our attention to its value and the value of emergency responders. This nationally televised event has piqued an interest in protecting all athletes and the American Heart Association is advocating to ensure educational programs are in place. In recognition of American Heart Month and the beginning of SPC’s monthly blog, Beyond the Bedside, let’s discuss the importance of protecting your heart and how SPC can help you create a game plan that may save your life from future cardiovascular events.
As a former cardiac ICU nurse, I cared for many critically-ill patients who required CPR and many of these patients already had established cardiovascular disease. Outcomes were often more complicated than what our nation witnessed on TV in the case of Damar Hamlin. If the heart is already diseased from bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, uncontrolled sleep apnea or diabetes, the heart may not respond to even the very best efforts of CPR. Unfortunately, these underlying diseases are quite common. If a diseased heart responds to CPR and the heartbeat is restored, there is a significant risk that the brain and kidneys do not return to the same level of function. Many of these patients will require prolonged hospitalization, heart surgeries to attempt to restore the underlying issue and artificial support from dialysis, heart and lung machines.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.
Here are a few statistics to help validate that heart disease prevention is so critical:
- 697,000 people in US died from heart disease in 2020 (in 1 year)
- 805,000 experience heart attacks every year
- 20% do not have symptoms associated but yet irreversible damage occurs with heart attacks
- 20% heart disease deaths associated with blockages to heart blood vessels were under age of 65
- More information: (www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm)
As a primary care provider, I challenge you to schedule a wellness visit every year to evaluate your cardiovascular health. The key to wellness visits is prevention. Prevention of disease is early identification, controlling risk factors and preventing early disease development. There are valuable screening tests that help identify risk and many advanced medical treatments for early stages of disease.
As providers, we have a lot of tools in our toolbox for the treatment of high blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, diabetes and other factors that contribute to heart disease. Unfortunately, our culture often promotes shortcuts to health and fad diets which often fail. However, it’s easy to lose focus on the importance of foundational health. Our cells need energy and fuel to work efficiently. We need healthy foods, adequate hydration, physical activity and quality sleep. Medicine can supplement lifestyle, however, both are so important to success.
If you want to learn more about how to promote better cardiovascular health and help reduce future statistics through prevention, SPC is here to help you make a game plan. We are born with one heart, but many opportunities in our lifetime to protect it.