Healthy Living in the North

Heart Month how-to: Heart attack recognition

Grandfather and granddaughter eating marshmallows.

Do you know the signs of a heart attack? Learn the signs today and take steps to ensure that your family can enjoy many more gatherings and BBQs together!

Imagine this: You are enjoying a BBQ at your grandparents’ home. Your grandmother is standing at the grill, serving up the burgers. When you approach with your plate, you can see she is sweating. It’s hot near the flames, so you don’t pay much attention.

You all sit down at the picnic table with your plates. Everyone is laughing and jostling, but your grandmother looks serious. She says she feels nauseous and lightheaded and wants to lie down.

Just then, your uncle goes over and puts his arm around your grandmother. He speaks quietly in her ear. You can see your grandmother nodding. Within minutes, your uncle is calling 9-1-1 and shortly after, the ambulance arrives. Your grandmother is fine, all because your uncle recognized the signs of a heart attack and knew what to do to help.

Heart attack – the medical term is acute myocardial infarction – occurs when the blood supply to the heart is interrupted. This can happen for different reasons, but it’s usually due to a blockage in one of the arteries in the heart. It’s a life threatening condition and needs immediate treatment.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the signs of a heart attack include:

  • Chest discomfort – pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning, or heaviness
  • Sweating
  • Upper body discomfort – neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Light headedness

These signs may not show up suddenly or seem particularly severe, and different people experience these signs differently. In particular, men and women tend to have different symptoms. The woman in the story above, for instance, never experienced the chest or upper body discomfort so commonly associated with heart attack. This is why it is so important to know these signs and to act immediately if you or someone you know is experiencing any or all of them.

What do you do if you or someone you know has the signs of a heart attack? According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation:

  1. Call 9-1-1
  2. Stop all activity
  3. Take your normal dosage of nitroglycerin (if you take nitroglycerin)
  4. Take Aspirin if you are not allergic to it (either one 325 mg tablet or two 81 mg tablets)
  5. Rest and wait
  6. Keep a list of your medications with you

Knowing the signs of heart attack can help you and others get to treatment quickly and increase the chance of recovery.

If you would like more info about heart conditions such as heart attack, or are looking for prevention and treatment info, visit the BC Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Happy Heart Month!

Jess Place

About Jess Place

Jess Place is the regional manager of chronic diseases strategic planning and evaluation. She has worked in the fields of health, health human resources, and health services for over a decade. The Regional Chronic Diseases program helps northerners in the areas of chronic diseases. It promotes well-being, provides leadership, and operates (or supports the operation of) specialized services in the areas of cancer care, cardiac and stroke care, HIV and hepatitis C care, kidney care, and chronic pain care.

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The Grizzly Truth: A good laugh for good health

Nick, with a goatee, holds his cat in a Christmas picture.

Nick’s photo entry into the Northern Health Mr. Movember contest.

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.”

I have seen this quote attributed to both Francis Bacon and to Oscar Wilde. To be honest, I don’t have the citation to prove who said what when (if you know, feel free to comment and share as I wasn’t able to find firm evidence for either party). This quote carries a lot of meaning to me, both in my professional life and my personal life. I feel that I have a pretty good sense of humor and that has lent itself to some rich experiences with practical jokes and certain Mr. Movember contests (pictured right).

Wellness research shows that people who laugh regularly are healthier than those who do not. I’m not just referring to mental health either. One study actually found that people who laugh regularly have a lower risk for heart attack and an increased pain threshold! In work environments, the appropriate use of humor can de-escalate tense situations and increase the rapport between staff and clients.

There have been a number of circumstances in which laughing about myself, or my situation, has helped me move past unhelpful and unproductive feelings of stress or frustration. For instance, my hair started thinning at the age of 21. I’m 26 now and that trend is continuing, despite my protests. I will admit that the first time my “bald spot” was pointed out, I didn’t laugh and say “thanks for bringing that to my attention!” In fact, a couple of threats were exchanged before I made my way to the nearest mirror. At first, having a sense of humor about the situation wasn’t easy, but, over time, it made me feel better to have a laugh about it, even cracking a joke or two at my own expense. Humour has helped me come to terms with something that’s completely out of my control.

On a more serious note, I recently read about a nurse who had been struggling with significant depression. He received support to enroll in a stand-up comedy course and, since beginning the course, has found that his outlook, self-esteem, and mood have greatly improved. You don’t have to get on the stand-up comedy stage like the nurse, but, to improve your health, it is important to practise allowing yourself to laugh and to put yourself in an environment where laughter is common practise!

Nick Rempel

About Nick Rempel

Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.

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February is Heart Month

Six warning signs of a heart attack

Watch for the six warning signs of a heart attack. (Source: www.heartandstroke.com)

One of my colleagues recently sent me an email with the link for this short and funny video. In her email she asked how having a heart attack could be funny, but said the video was so great that it needed to be shared with all women.

This video makes me think, why do we need a funny video to make women notice that heart disease is the number one killer of women?

I think it’s that women are the caregivers to the family. Just like the Heart and Stroke Foundation video on “Make Death Wait” shows, women are so concerned that heart disease will affect others in our family that we don’t realize that it is actually coming for us.

February is Heart Month and we should be doing all we can to help ourselves! Here are some tips:

  1. Get informed. Seek out information from great sites like Heart and Stroke Foundation – take a look at their “Women and Heart Disease and Stroke” information.
  2. Know your risk. Heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of death for Canadian women. Did you know that most Canadian women have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke? Take the quiz and see what your risk is.
  3. Take control of your health.  We know that if women put their health first by making changes they can reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 80%.

If we can do this for ourselves, our girlfriends, our best friends, our sisters, our mothers, our daughters, our nieces and granddaughters, we can hopefully all live a little longer and a little happier.

Barbara Hennessy

About Barbara Hennessy

Barbara Hennessy is Northern Health’s regional coordinator for cardiac & cerebrovascular services, and is very passionate about improving cardiac and cerebrovascular health for people of the north. Barbara has a Master’s in Nursing from Dalhousie University, with a specialty in adult cardiac population. In her previous roles in cardiac nursing, Barbara has worked in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and – saving the best for last – B.C.! In her spare time, Barbara loves reading, crafting, biking and seeing the beauty across northern B.C.

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