Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Heart Related Emergencies at Home

Do you have heart problems in your family? I do. It's scary. Especially with my parents getting older and my brother and I being away from home. Five of my family members have suffered or died from heart attacks or sudden cardiac arrest in my lifetime (and I'm not that old!).

Sorry for the doom and gloom on a Wednesday morning, but it's reality. The great news is that there's an extra precaution you can take against heart related emergencies when your mom and dad (or brother, cousin, grandpa, uncle and creepy step-aunt) refuse to eat better or get out and exercise.

I bet you think I'm going to say, "learn CPR," right? Close! But no. CPR requires your presence. If a family member you're concerned about has a significant other, caretaker or someone else with them on a regular basis, there's a better solution.

It's personal automatic external defibrillators, more popularly know as AEDs, I'm talking about. You know - those things you see on hospital shows where they yell "clear!" then shock the patient's heart? Those, but smaller (and less dramatic).

With a few hours of training and the purchase of an personal AED, one can have quick access to a tool that greatly increases the survivability of a heart related emergency. According to the Red Cross, 50,000 of the 250,000 sudden cardiac arrest related deaths occurring yearly in the US could be prevented if an AED were present.

Now, when we see AEDs used on those hospital shows I mentioned, the patient's heart has usually stopped - a depiction that's not completely accurate. AEDs are appropriate for irregular, sporadic or absent heart rhythms. That means heart attack, angina, AMI and sudden cardiac arrest are all candidates for AED use.

Sound complicated? The biggest worry is probably, "how will I know when to use it?". You'll learn more in class, but let me just put this one fear to rest: Modern AEDs measure heart rhythms and advise the user whether or not to administer a shock automatically. All you have to do is listen to instructions and push a button. Easy!

Having a personal AED in the home or office accompanied by someone with proper training is a great precaution to take against heart related emergencies.

For more information about AEDs, how you or a loved one can take an AED class, or to learn more about the Red Cross, visit these links:

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