February Is American Heart Month

By the American Heart Association, and
Donna McHenry, MS,
Los Alamos Fire Department
There are more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) annually in the U.S., nearly 90 percent of them fatal, according to the American Heart Association’s newly released Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2017 Update.
According to the report, the annual incidence of EMS-assessed non-traumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) in 2015 is estimated to be 356,500. Estimates also suggest 7,037 children suffer OHCA each year.
The American Heart Association wants to help everyone live longer, healthier lives so they can enjoy all of life’s precious moments. And we know that starts with taking care of your health. American Heart Month, a federally designated event, is a great way to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved.
Together, we can build a culture of health where making the healthy choice is the easy choice. Why? Because Life is Why.
This statistical update is produced using the most-recent data available compiled by the AHA, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other government sources. Cardiovascular disease (CVD), including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading global cause of death with more than 17.3 million deaths each year. That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030.
American Hearth Month Statistics at a Glance
  • Among adults treated by EMS, 25 percent had no symptoms before the onset of arrest.
  • The majority of OHCA’s occur at a home or residence (70 percent). Public settings (20 percent) and nursing
  • Cardiac arrest was witnessed by a bystander in 37 percent of cases, and an EMS provider in 12 percent of cases. It was unwitnessed in 51 percent of cases.
  • Among EMS-treated OHCA patients, 21 percent had an initial rhythm (Ventricular Fibrillation-VF- or Ventricular Tachycardia- VT), which is shockable by an automated external defibrillator (AED).
  • In the ROC Epistry, survival to hospital discharge after EMS-treated cardiac arrest was 11 percent for patients of any age. Survival after bystander-witnessed ventricular fibrillation (VF) was 37 percent for patients of any age.
  • In the CARES data from 2015, survival to hospital discharge was 11 percent. For those with a shockable rhythm, survival was 34 percent.
  • According to the ROC Epistry, the incidence of bystander CPR and lay use of AEDs has increased slightly over time. In 2006, 37 percent of OHCA victims received bystander CPR. In 2015, 44 percent received bystander CPR. Lay use of AEDs increased from 3 percent in 2006 to 7 percent in 2015.
Additional Data
  • 220.8 per 100,000: The overall rate of death attributable to CVD, based on 2014 data.
  • On average, someone died of CVD every 40 seconds. That is about 2,200 deaths of CVD each day.
  • On average, someone in the US has a stroke every 40 seconds. This is about 795,000 new or recurrent strokes each year. On average, someone died of a stroke every 4 minutes
  • Stroke accounted for ≈1 of every 20 deaths in the United States.
  • More than 65 percent of US adults have 2, 3, or 4 criteria at ideal cardiovascular health, with ≈20 percent adults within each of these categories. At any age, females tend to have more metrics at ideal levels than do males. Blacks and Hispanics tend to have fewer metrics at ideal levels than whites or other races.
  • 85.7 million, or 34.0 percent of US adults are estimated to have hypertension, based on 2011-2014 data.
  • 28.5 million, or 11.9 percent of US adults are estimated to have total serum cholesterol levels ≥240 mg/dL, based on 2011-2014 data.
  • 23.4 million, or 9.1 percent of US adults are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, based on 2011-2014 data.
  • 1 in 6 males and 1 in 7 females in the United States are current smokers, based on 2015 data.
  • On average, 1 in 3 adults, or 30.4 percent Do not engage in leisure time physical activity. Hispanic and Non-Hispanic black adults were more likely to be inactive. 

Women are at risk of CVD death too.

  • Scientific evidence proves heart disease is different in women as compared to men.
  • Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack
  • The symptoms of heart attack can be different in women vs. men, and are often misunderstood – even by some physicians.
  • Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men
  • Each year, about 55,000 more women than men have a stroke.
Heart Attack Symptoms
  • Chest Discomfort: Most heart attacks involved discomfort in the venter of the vest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath: with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs: May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness. Women sometimes complain of weakness, tiredness, or flu like symptoms.
If these signs are present CALL 9-1-1.
Stroke Symptoms. Identify a stroke using the FAST method.
  • Face Dropping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • Time to call 9-1-1: If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 they need to get to the hospital immediately. Let EMS know when the symptoms started, this is important information that will help guide treatment.
Prevention: Protect yourself! Unfortunately, we live in a time where it seems that everything moves fast, but our bodies. Not all risk factors for CVD are preventable, but there are many things you can do to reduce your risk.
  • Get Active: Studies have shown that as little as 20 minutes a day of moderate exercise has reduced CVD risks.
  • Control Cholesterol: Know your numbers, get a blood test and work with your physician to lower your risk.
  • Eat Better: Our fast paced life style often means fast food. Try making meals in advance and whenever you can choose fresh food over processed meals.
  • Manage Blood Pressure: Know what your blood pressure readings are and if your blood pressure is higher than 140/90, tell your doctor. S/he may give you medication to lower it. You can purchase an automatic blood pressure cuff at most pharmacies so you can take your own.
  • Lose Weight: Some estimates say more than 30% of Americans are obese. While high intensity exercises may not be safe or comfortable for all, most people are comfortable going for a walk. As walking gets easier, adding distance or intensity will help the weight come off. Start a new exercise program is a great way to improve overall health, but discuss this with your doctor before beginning so s/he can recommend the best plan for you.
  • Reduce Blood Sugar: Type 2 diabetes continues to rise in this country. Have your blood sugar tested to make sure you are not at risk for disease and limit your consumption of sugar.
  • Stop Smoking: Smoking continues to be a major risk factor for CVD. If you smoke, ask your doctor about medications s/he can prescribe to help you quit. Use the money you save on cigarettes to do something fun!
Did you know? In Los Alamos most of the patients who are treated for heart attacks at the Emergency Department (ED) do not call 9-1-1 and drive or have a family member drive them to the hospital. Los Alamos Fire Department ambulances are Mobile Intensive Care Units with paramedics who are trained in the same Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support classes that the ED staff attends.
Our paramedics are able to initiate the same initial treatment that is performed in the ED reducing the time to treatment which has the potential of saving precious heart muscle. We also have the technology to perform a 12 lead EKG that can be transmitted to LAMC or the Cath Lab at St. Vincent Hospital.
Driving to the hospital is risky for the person experiencing a heart attack as well as others in the community. People who drive themselves may lose consciousness and crash into someone else and family members driving someone would not be able to help if they are driving and their loved one loses consciousness.
Our Los Alamos Police Department Dispatchers are trained to give potentially lifesaving instructions to callers as well. If you call 9-1-1 for a family member one dispatcher gathers important information from the caller and gives medical instructions while a second dispatcher sends EMS to help.
The average responsive time for Los Alamos Fire Department is about 6 minutes. If you call 9-1-1, the LAPD dispatcher will give you instructions to help the person having a heart attack, which may reduce damage to their heart. Each minute it takes you to drive is another minute the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen which can cause permanent damage.
Please call 9-1-1. Your team of emergency services professionals are here to help you.
There is only one you. You are an important member of our community. Take care of yourself so your friends and family have many years of memories to share. We only get one body and one life to live, so let us all do our best to help ourselves, our family, our friends and our beautiful community.