Don’t Skip a Beat – February is American “Heart” Month
When February rolls around, hearts are on the mind – and not just because of Valentine’s Day. February is the official American Heart Month. It’s great time of year to reflect on heart health and how you can lessen the risk of a cardiac event at your tribal entity.
Heart disease is a serious national health issue. According to the Center of Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death in adults, regardless of ethnicity or racial group.
- One person dies every 37 seconds due to heart disease
- Approximately 650,000 people die from heart disease each year (1 in 4 deaths)
- Each year heart disease costs a whopping $220 billion in health care costs, treatments and lost workforce productivity
In spite of these numbers, there are lots of reason to take heart (sorry, bad pun). Many heart diseases are preventable simply by making a commitment to a healthier lifestyle. Plus, training for responding to sudden cardiac events is readily accessible. Encourage your tribal employees to show their hearts a little love this February.
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The factors that lead to heart disease include all the usual suspects: high blood pressure, smoking, stress, poor diet, lack of sleep and a sedentary lifestyle, to name a few. An overwhelming majority of people are living with at least one risk factor that can contribute to heart disease.
The good news is that many of the most effective preventative methods to lessen the risk of a cardiac event are well within an individual’s ability to control. Check the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s page for making heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
Many people struggle with lifestyle habits because they set unrealistic goals at the outset and get discouraged. Review the sample goals below for small, achievable ways to get started. Remember, starting small is better than never starting at all!
- Physical activity – try going on a 10-minute walk every day.
- Weight loss – commit to losing a few pounds; track your methods and progress – even losing one pound means progress in the right direction!
- Healthy diet – try replacing one packaged food per day with a healthy alternative.
- Quit smoking – take the first step by talking to your doctor about methods and resources.
- Reduce stress – identify the stressors in your life and brainstorm realistic ways to reduce or remove them.
- Sleep well – bump back your bedtime in 15 minute increments until you are consistently getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.
- Make a connection – find someone to participate or help keep you accountable for one of your goals. A support network is a great way to stay motivated!
Types of heart disease
“Heart disease” is an umbrella term for a number of conditions that can negatively affect the heart. Some are genetically inherent; others are developed over a period of time due to poor lifestyle habits. Some common ones include:
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
- High blood pressure
A common factor among many kinds of heart disease is the possibility of the condition inducing a cardiac event such as:
- Cardiac arrest
- Heart attack
Knowing how to identify these events can lessen the risk of a cardiac event, making the difference between life and death for both yourself and those around you. These events are often brought on by pre-existing heart diseases and exacerbating conditions that put strain on the heart, such as sudden and intense physical exertion. However, they can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone with little or no warning. For more information on how to identify the symptoms, please refer to this page from the American Heart Association (AHA).
CPR and AEDs
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is defined by the AHA as “an emergency lifesaving procedure…[which] can double or triple chances of survival after cardiac arrest.” A cardiac event impairs the heart’s ability to function, and CPR keeps blood flowing through the body, most importantly to the brain, by using external force to pump it.
Many people are familiar with the basic mechanics of CPR due to dramatized television enactments. While the concept is relatively simple, real-life CPR is both physically and mentally demanding and cannot be performed effectively by someone who has not been trained to do so. Fortunately, finding training and becoming certified is relatively straightforward and cost-effective, since both the AHA and the American Red Cross offer trainings and resources. It is an excellent idea to either identify any employees who are already certified, or to offer a class to your employees as part of your safety program.
What is not commonly known is that CPR alone is often not enough to restart a heart – it is meant only to keep a victim alive until a trained medical team can arrive and take over. Actual resuscitation will often depend on the use of an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) in conjunction with CPR, but many facilities are not equipped with them or are unaware of their importance in the “Chain of Survival.” An AED can analyze heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock in an attempt to reset the heart’s normal electrical pathways and pumping motions.
A professional medical team can employ an AED, but in many cases a victim’s survival depends upon receiving an AED shock long before a medical team is able to arrive. Fortunately, many AEDs are simple to operate. Some are equipped to deliver pre-recorded, step-by-step commands that can be followed even by untrained bystanders. Read through this AHA article and American Red Cross page to learn more about AEDs.
Takeaways to lessen the risk of a cardiac event
There are many ways you can encourage your tribal employees to reduce their risks of heart disease, and to prepare your workforce to respond to a sudden cardiac event:
- Identify staff members trained to perform CPR, or host a training event for your employees to become CPR certified either from the AHA or American Red Cross.
- Install appropriate AED device(s) in your facility(ies).
- Train employees on how to recognize the signs and symptoms for a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiac event, both in themselves and others.
- Post fact sheets on methods to help reduce risks of heart disease and offer support resources as appropriate – both the AHA and Red Cross offer many printable resources on these subjects.
- Make employee health initiatives part of facility-wide team building exercises and part of your enterprise’s employee culture.
If you or your tribal employees live with risk factors for heart disease, now is a great time to have a change of heart and commit to a healthier year. For more information, please refer to the resource links included in this article or contact your Tribal Risk Manager Mark Sherwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.