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Cardiac arrest event good for area

By By James Crawford
News Editor
Do you know what the nation's number one killer is? No, it's not Iraq, nor is it terrorists, nor is it any person or place to which you can attach blame, except maybe to yourself. No, the number one killer in the United States each year is a silent foe, capable of striking at any time, any place.
The only defense is common sense and determination and even though we've been at war for decades we've only recently been able to gain any ground. The number killer I'm talking about is heart disease and its many accomplices.
I know that everyone is focusing their efforts on the servicemen and women and the war with Iraq but we shouldn't forget all the other struggles that are going on in our nation today.
The struggle against heart disease is just as deadly as the war. In fact, it kills more people each year than the current war with Iraq will ever achieve and more each year than the last Gulf War combined.
Did you know that cardiovascular disease kills more Americans than the next six leading causes of death combined? I didn't, and I'm stunned. Last year, 17,426 Alabamians died from it and that's just here at home. The cost of treating the disease is over $300 billion annually in the United States. I can't count that high and have trouble believing that much money even exists sometimes.
Even worse, the number three spot of the top killer's list is occupied by its counterpart, the stroke. The stroke has the added nastiness of being the leading cause of serious, long-term disability as well. So, if you don't die from it, the effects are so debilitating that you will either be left paralyzed or a vegetable that requires hourly attention from someone just to survive.
Heart attacks don't always give you a clue their about to happen. Those that happen suddenly, called "movie heart attacks" will be over before you know it and you'll be dead. But, the majority of heart attacks come at you slowly and do allow you the opportunity to save yourself if you use your common sense and realize what's happening.
Don't try to lay down and let it do away. Don't call your family doctor and wait for him to call back and DO NOT take an aspirin and continue about your business. If you think you're having a heart attack, then you need to call 911 right then. If you can't get a response, then try to have someone drive you to a hospital. Don't try to drive unless you absolutely have to but if you do, then get there fast.
There isn't much you can do about stopping a heart attack but they are preventable. You have to change your diet, get some exercise, reduce the stress in your life, find a hobby you enjoy, get a physical and stick with your doctors recommendations and lastly make your health a priority, not just a fad. Look for foods that have the American Heart Association's heart with a white check on it. Those are considered heart healthy. After all, you only get one chance at this life and then it's game over – you lose. But you can try to stay in the game for as long as you can.
I'm ending this column with some warning signs from the American Heart Association, the source for some of this info I've passed onto you today. My hopes are that you clip them out or commit them to memory.
The Heart Association is currently doing a program to "bail" local dignitaries out of jail with money they've raised that will go to fight heart disease. Several local Atmorians are involved with the program. Look for them and help out if you can.
The American Heart Association also conducts its Jump Rope for Heart program that most area schools participated in this year with great results. One student from A.C. Moore raised over $400 for the association, which is truly amazing. I hope you get involved wherever you can with the American Heart Association and that you get involved with yourselves. Be good to yourself and remember to live, not just exist.
Below are the common warning signs of the top three heart diseases.
Heart Attack:
*Chest discomfort- in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
*Discomfort or pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
*Shortness of breath. This feeling often comes along with chest discomfort.
*Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Stroke:
*Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side.
*Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
*Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
*Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
*Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
Cardiac arrest:
*Sudden loss of responsiveness. No response to gentle shaking.
*The victim does not take a normal breath when you check for several seconds.
*No signs of circulation. No movement or coughing.
James Crawford is News Editor of The Atmore Advance. He can be reached by phone at 368-2123 or by e-mail at james.crawford@atmoreadvance.com