In light of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) recent update on heart attack and stroke statistics, the Granby Ambulance Association is announcing the Summer of Heart Health program to educate the community on risk factors that may lead to a cardiac event and how to respond if someone seems to be in distress.
In its recently released report on updated statistics, the AHA predicts that one in every 7.4 people will die of cardiac arrest. In addition, the update notes that smoking and tobacco use, a risk factor when considering heart health, is on the decline overall, but still remains the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. High cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and poor dietary habits were also noted as areas needing improvement in the quest for a healthier heart population.
“Most of us know that we need to eat right and exercise to promote a healthy heart,” said Lorri DiBattisto, president of Granby Ambulance Association. “But do we really know what that means and how to put it in practice?”
Granby Ambulance Association plans to use the summer to promote the American Heart Association’s My Life Check®—Life’s Simple 7 Steps, spelling out what it takes to achieve a healthier heart. Area residents can look to the association’s up and coming website, social media and community publications for tips on living a heart-healthy life, as well as how to recognize a heart attack and when to call for help. Upcoming events, such as the organization’s 55th anniversary will also promote heart health.
“We’re going to use every resource we’ve got to get the message out,” said DiBattisto.
According to the American Heart Association, a heart attack occurs when blood flow to part of the muscle is constrained or limited. This happens when one or more arteries become blocked. The AHA recommends that patients receive percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), a surgical procedure to unblock the artery, within 90 minutes of first noting symptoms. Hospitals equipped to perform this type of procedure on an emergency basis are referred to as STEMI-receiving facilities.
“We’re lucky in this area, because most of the major hospitals are equipped to follow these best practices,” said Kate Coupe, Chief, Paramedic, EMSI for Granby Ambulance Association.
Granby Ambulance Association is also placing a priority on heart care. Coupe said that all ambulances have been fitted with 12-lead EKG machines, thanks to a donation from Seth and Lucy Holcombe, to give paramedics the best chance of recognizing a heart attack in progress. All licensed paramedics on staff can read the EKG output, but the new equipment greatly speeds the process, immediately alerting medical responders to the state of the patient and allowing them to send that information to the receiving hospital at the push of a button.
“It really has to be a fluid orchestration between the emergency medical responders and the teams at the receiving hospital,” said Coupe. “It’s our goal to transmit the EKG results in a timely manner, allowing the hospital staff to prepare on their end and be ready to start treatment when the patient arrives.” Coupe also stressed that paramedics continue to monitor patients during transport and administer critical procedures and medications during the ride.
For meeting the American Heart Association Guidelines, Granby Ambulance Association has been recognized with the Mission: Lifeline EMS bronze Recognition. Agencies earn Bronze recognition after transporting at least four patients directly to a STEMI Receiving Center for Primary PCI and/or STEMI Referring Hospital for fibrinolytic administration and for achieving 75 percent or higher adherence for at least one 90-consecutive-day interval on all Mission: Lifeline® EMS quality measures to improve the quality of care for STEMI patients.
“We have the people, procedures and equipment in place to help generate the best outcomes in the event of a cardiac arrest, but we are only part of the equation,” said DiBattisto. “People need to know how to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack early to help us meet that 90-minute mark. That’s part of the message we really want to get out.”
Heart attack symptoms can present differently from person to person and between men and women, but they usually start with some form of chest discomfort, according to the American Heart Association. Jaw, neck or back pain can also be experienced.
Other symptoms include lightheadedness, nausea and vomiting, breaking out in a cold sweat and shortness of breath. Woman should also be on the lookout for subtler symptoms, such as an upset stomach and mid-back discomfort between the shoulder blades. A more complete list of symptoms can be found on the American Heart Association’s website.
“It’s really important for people to understand the warning signs of a heart attack and not be afraid to call for help right away if they think they are experiencing symptoms,” said DiBattisto.
Granby Ambulance Association plans to highlight more life-saving tips and preventive measures throughout the summer. To be kept in the loop on updates, follow the Granby Ambulance Facebook page, sign up for the organization’s monthly newsletter, and look for updated blog posts once the new website goes live in July.