Posted on February 2, 2016 at 6:00 am
A week ago I woke up around 4am with intense pain, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I got out of bed and walked up the stairs like a hunchback, clutching my chest and abdomen. I only made it to the living room before the pain forced me to the floor. Scared and unsure what to do, I called 911.
Dressed in only my fiancé’s ratty t-shirt and black leggings covered in dog hair, the paramedics wheeled me out into the rain and loaded me into the back of the ambulance. In between the pangs in my chest and the paramedics hooking me up to various monitors, I thought about all the times I’d seen an ambulance outside someone’s home. This time was different—it was me on that gurney.
Hooked up to the ambulance ECG monitor, I waited to hear the verdict. I didn’t think I was having a heart attack, but I was scared and had no idea what was wrong with me. The number one killer of both men and women in the U.S., heart disease causes 1 in 4 deaths each year. Heart disease often manifests itself without any prior warning. Almost everyone I know has been impacted by it in some way. I lost both my maternal grandmother and paternal grandfather to heart disease.
“Well, the good news is it’s not your heart,” said Dan the paramedic. While he couldn’t make a formal diagnosis, he said the pain I was experiencing was most likely because of a gallbladder issue. To distract me on the way to the hospital, Dan told me how over the last five days almost all of the calls he and his partner had responded to were cardiac related. I felt lucky my case was different.
February is American Heart Month and this Friday, February 5, is National Wear Red Day. To help prevent heart disease and increase awareness of its effects, the Library District is partnering with Spokane Valley Fire Department to offer free blood pressure checks at the Spokane Valley (Feb 13, 12–3pm), Argonne (Feb 20, 12–3pm), and Otis Orchards (Feb 27, 12–3pm) libraries this month. Information about heart attacks, free CPR training, and PulsePoint will also be available to the public.
PulsePoint is a location-aware phone app that notifies citizens when a victim of Sudden Cardiac Arrest needs CPR. Spokane Valley Fire was instrumental in bringing this life-saving app to Eastern Washington in 2014. PulsePoint reports that 57% of U.S. adults say they’ve had CPR training, and most would be willing to use CPR or an AED to help save a stranger’s life.
Although my trip to the ER ended up being gastric rather than heart related, it made me think about what I put into my body and how I use (or don’t use) it every day. There are definitely some changes I could make to improve my overall health and well being.
No matter your age, you can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. To lower your risk, the American Heart Association recommends:
For more information about heart disease, talk to your doctor and visit these local resources: