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Heart Disease

You may have high blood pressure and not even know it.  After all, you can’t feel your blood pressure even when it is too high.  That’s why it is called the silent killer.  How do you know what your blood pressure is?  If you get regular check-ups you probably have an idea of your BP range but it can change quickly and without warning.  We recommend that everyone have access to an accurate home monitor to check for high blood pressure at home.  

Types of  Home Blood Pressure Monitors

Automatic Wrist Digital Blood Pressure Monitors - These wrist units are my preference.  Compact, easy-to-use home blood pressure monitors that fit around your wrist instead of your arm. Perfect for those who want a second unit for travel or for people who have trouble placing a cuff on their arm. 

Arm Cuff Blood Pressure Monitors – Automatic & Semi-Automatic - Inflate and deflate the arm cuff with the touch of a button, or manually inflate and automatically deflate – you choose the best one for you.  Digital readouts.

Manual Professional Aneroid Sphygmomanometers - If you can pronounce it, you are probably qualified to use it.   Most likely, you’ll see these manual inflation units in your doctor’s office.  Check out our great prices on Aneroid units!

Talking Blood Pressure Monitors - Let the monitor give you the readings out loud, in English or Spanish.  These talking blood pressure monitors are amazingly feature-rich.  

See all Blood Pressure Monitors

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What is Blood Pressure?  Simply put, arterial blood pressure is the force of blood exerted against the walls of your blood vessels.  High blood pressure, hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder, plus it contributes to hardening of the arteries and the development of heart failure. 

There are two components to blood pressure – systolic and diastolic pressure.  Systolic, the higher pressure, occurs during contraction of the heart.  Diastolic, the lower pressure, occurs when the heart is at ‘rest’.

Your level of blood pressure is determined in the circulatory center of the brain and adjusts to a variety of situations through feedback from the nervous system. To adjust blood pressure, the strength and frequency of the heart (Pulse), as well as the width of circulatory blood vessels is altered.  Blood vessel width is effected by fine muscles in the blood vessel walls.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?  Several factors may play a role in the development of high blood pressure.  Factors such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, salt, stress, alcohol, age, genetics, kidney disease or adrenal and thyroid disorders.  In 90 to 95 percent of cases, the cause is unknown.  This is known as non-essential hypertension.  That’s what I was diagnosed with about 5 years ago.  After 4 years on medication, however, my blood pressure suddenly dropped after my chiropractor adjusted my C-1 vertebra, aka my Atlas bone.  It dropped to below normal and I was directed to stop taking my BP medication by my family physician.  It evened out in a couple days.  This was more than a year ago and my blood pressure remains in the normal range.  I take my blood pressure with my wrist monitor once a week just to be sure I’m still okay! I recommend regular chiropractic adjustments for all kinds of health reasons, but this was a complete surprise.

How high is too high?  The normal range is less than 120/80.  Your blood pressure is too high if, at rest, your diastolic pressure is above 90mmHg and/or the systolic blood pressure is over 160mmHg.  If your blood pressure is above the normal range you should consult your doctor about lowering it.  Even if your blood pressure is normal, a regular self-check with your BP monitor is recommended.  This way, you can detect possible changes early and react quickly to alert your physician.

If you are undergoing medical treatment to control your blood pressure, keep a record of your blood pressure by taking your measurements at several times of the day.  Show these to your doctor.  And remember, never use the results of your measurements to discontinue or independently alter the drug doses prescribed by your doctor.

Monitoring your blood pressure could save your life.  And we wish you a very, very long life.  Thanks for being an Allegro customer.

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There is a good chance that you will personally witness a cardiac arrest in your lifetime.  For me, that’s enough of a reason to hope that everyone knows CPR (especially the guy standing next to me if I suddenly drop dead).  Without it, you have little chance of surviving a heart-stopping arrest. 

My business partner, Allegro CEO Craig Hood, recently completed a CPR course and kindly enlightened us on some changes in the way CPR is approached and rendered.  Every year the guidelines change as new information is gathered.  Read these myths, tips and updates and then get signed up for a class!

*  The bad news:  Lives are rarely saved by CPR.  In fact, the survival rate for out-of-hospital CPR is estimated to be between 1 and 3 percent.  The good news is that survival rates are much improved if you know CPR and they are especially improved if you have access to an Automated External Defibrillator (AED).  AEDs are used to restart a heart that has stopped beating or is beating too quickly to create a pulse.  It can be administered by anyone.  Even you.  The instructions are spoken to you directly from the machine itself.  AEDs will only work if the heart is in a position to benefit from the shock (they won’t even fire otherwise, so you can’t accidently shock someone who doesn’t need it!). 

*  Despite what you have seen in the movies, CPR will not “make the heart start”.  Rather, it simulates the beating of the heart, thereby assisting the circulation of oxygenated blood to vital organs.  This essentially keeps the blood moving and the brain alive until advanced support techniques can be provided by an AED or similar device. 

*  Permanent brain damage can occur within 4 minutes.

A heart attack is not the same as a cardiac arrest.  A heart attack is caused by blocked blood flow to the heart muscle, causing it to begin to die.  Sudden cardiac arrest is caused by life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms – abnormalities in the heart’s electrical system.  The most common arrhythmia is ventricular fibrillation.  A heart attack is often preceded by chest, arm, upper abdomen, shoulder or jaw pain.  It may also, especially in women, be accompanied by dizziness, sweating, vomiting and nausea.  There is rarely a warning before sudden cardiac arrest.  Heart attack victims usually remain conscious.  Sudden cardiac arrest victims always lose consciousness. 

*  It has been circulated on the Internet that if you are alone at the time of a heart attack you should start coughing vigerously until help comes (Cough CPR).  This myth began because patients undergoing cardiac catheterization may develop abnormal heart beats (arrhythmias) and, in these circumstances, it is sometimes possible for a conscious person on a medical setting to cough forcefully enough until the arrhythmia disapppears or is treated.  According to Dr. Jennifer H. Mieres, spokesperson for the American Heart Assoc. and director of nuclear cardiology/associate professor of clinical medicine at NYU, it is unlikely that cough CPR would be of any benefit in out-of-hospital situations.

*  Research has shown that performing CPR on a cardiac arrest victim prior to shocking with an AED makes the heart much more likely to respond.  The only exception is if the defbrillator is with the victim when the heart stops (unlikely).  If so, use it right away.

*  Research shows that cardiac arrest victims are unlikely to respond to a second or third succssive shock if the first doesn’t work.  They are, in fact, much more likely to respond to a repeat shock after two minutes of CPR.

*  Even if you can’t remember all the techniques and ratios you were taught, doing CPR badly is better than doing nothing at all.  Remember, the person has no pulse.  They are essentially dead.  You can’t make it worse.

How to Save a Life in Two Steps (even if you are untrained in CPR):

1.  Call 9-1-1

2.  Push hard and fast in the center of the victims chest.  Don’t be afraid, just do it.  I mean, wouldn’t you want someone to do it for you if you were dying?  You can only help.  Keep doing compressions until an AED arrives and is ready for use or an EMS provider takes over. 

This is called “Hands-Only CPR”.  Studies show that these two steps can be as effective as conventional CPR (chest compressions plus mouth-to-mouth).  Providing Hands-Only CPR to an adult who has collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest can more than double their chance of survival.

*  How fast should you push on the chest?  103 beats per minute.  That is exactly the beats per minute in the disco song “Stayin’ Alive”.  A study by the Univ. of Illinois found that 10 docs and 5 med students who listened to the song while practicing CPR not only performed perfectly, they remember the technique five weeks later.

*  If you have been trained in CPR and you are confident in your abilities to provide rescue breaths with minimal interruptions in chest compressions, then you should provide either conventional CPR using a 30:2 compression-to-ventilation ratio or Hands-Only CPR.  Whichever you use, you need to continue it right up until the moment that an AED is ready to use, or an EMS provider takes over.

*  Heart disease is not a man’s disease.  Heart disease is the #1 killer of women.  Know the Heart Attack & Stroke Warning Signs:  Men vs. Women.

* There are known and published risk factors for heart disease.  Are you at risk for a heart attack or stroke?

*  Know the facts about heart disease.

*  Get educated and get involved.  Here are 5 Ways to Celebrate American Heart Month.

Do you have any tips or myths?  Share them please!

Here are some disturbing statistics published by the American Heart Association.  Much of this is taken from Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2009 Update.

Did you know?

*  Nearly 2,400 Americans die of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) each day, an average of one death every 37 seconds.

*  Preliminary mortality data for 2006 show that CVD accounted for 34.2% of all 2,425,900 deaths in 2006, or 1 of every 2.9 deaths in the United States.

*  Good news:  From 1995 to 2005, death rates from CVD declined by 26.4%.

* Cardiovascular disease claims about as many lives each year as cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents and diabetes mellitus combined.

*  Half of adults 50 and younger with low 10-year risk of  CVD have high lifetime risk (News Release Jan. 13, 2009).

*  One in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease.

*  Since 1984, the number of CVD deaths for females has exceeded those for males.

*  In 2005, CVD was the first listed diagnosis of 3,023,000 females discharged from short-stay hospitals.  Discharges include people both alive, dead or of unknown status.

*  More than 150,000 Americans killed by CVD in 2005 were less than 65 years of age.

*  In 2009, an estimated 785,000 Americans will have a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 will have a recurrent attack.  It is estimated that an additional 195,000 silent first myocardial infarctions occur each year.

*  Each year, about 795,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke.  On average, every 40 seconds someone in the US has a stroke.  Good news: From 1995 to 2005, the stroke death rate fell 29.7% and the actual number of stroke deaths declined 13.5%.

Yikes!!

Are you at risk for heart disease?  Do you know what to do in the event of a heart attack?  Are you up to date on the latest CPR Myths & Tips?

Read 5 Ways to Celebrate American Heart Month for more information on how to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Here’s a Power Point Presentation for 2009 American Heart Org Stats in case you want to present these facts to your family, school or group.

 Here is a summary of “Risk Factors for Heart Disease” from the American Heart Association:

* Diabetes Mellitus – At least 65% of people with diabetes mellitus die of some form of heart or blood vessel disease.   Let Allegro help manage your diabetes with low cost Diabetes Supplies.

 * High Blood Cholesterol and Other Lipids – High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol levels of less than 40mg/dL are associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease.  Determine your cholesterol quickly and easily with a Home Cholesterol Test Kit.

* High Blood Pressure – About 69% of people who have a first heart attack, 77% who have a first stroke and 74% who have Congestive Heart Failure have blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg.  Do you know your blood pressure?  Take it anytime, anywhere with your own blood pressure monitor

* Metabolic Syndrome – Defined as having three or more of the following abnormalities:

- Waist circumference greater than 102 cm (40 inches) in men and 88 cm (35 inches) in women.

- Triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or higher.

- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level less than 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women.

- Blood pressure of 130/85 mm Hg or higher or drug treatment for hypertension.

- Fasting plasma glucose level of 100 mg/dL or higher.

Men and women with the MetS were approximately 1.5 and 2 times more likely to develop CHD. Among the components of MetS, elevated blood cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol exhibited the strongest associations with CHD. Similar associations were found between the MetS and incident ischemic stroke.

Overweight and Obesity – You are considered overweight if your Body Mass Index (BMI) is 25 and higher. You are considered obese if your BMI is 30 and higher.  Get weight loss help!

Physical Inactivity – The relative risk of coronary heart disease associated with physical inactivity ranges from 1.5 to 2.4, an increase in risk comparable to that for high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure or cigarette smoking.  Get your heart pumping with these popular exercise/fitness products.

Tobacco – a whole lot of bad news for smokers and those exposed to second-hand smoke:

- From 1997-2001, an estimated 438,000 Americans died each year of smoking-related illnesses; 34.7 percent of these deaths were cardiovascular-related.

- An estimated 35,052 nonsmokers die from coronary heart disease (CHD) each year as a result of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

- One-third of those who receive percutaneous coronary artery vascularization are current smokers, and 50-60 percent continue to smoke after the procedure.

- Cigarette smoking remains a major cause of stroke in the United States. The evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between smoking and subclinical atherosclerosis.

- There’s hope yet:  The 2004 Health Consequences of Smoking Report of the Surgeon General states that the risk of stroke decreases steadily after you quit smoking. Former smokers have the same risk as nonsmokers after five to 15 years.

- A study of women below age 44 found there was a strong dose-relationship for MI, with a risk of 2.5 for those smoking one to five cigarettes per day, rising to 74.6 for those smoking more than 40 cigarettes per day, compared with nonsmokers. – Another study on female smokers found the highest risk (6.8) for MI was in women younger than 55 years of age.

If you are at risk for heart disease or stroke, know that there are ways to manage these risk factors.  Please talk to you doctor about your concerns. 

Educate yourself and spread the word to your friends and family!  Read Staggering Heart Facts, Heart Attack/Stroke Warning Signs: Men vs. Women and  CPR Myths, Tips & Updates

People die every day because they ignore the signs of a heart attack.  They don’t want to “bother” anyone, or they thought the symptoms would just go away.  Here’s the deal, though… you never know for sure and it’s not worth guessing.  Personally, I’d rather be sent home with a prescription for GasX than be sent home in a box.

First things First:

Okay, so, the most important thing is that you dial 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY  (no more than 5 minutes) if you have heart attack symptoms.  Time is critical, especially now that they have all these new medications and treatments that will stop some heart attacks and strokes. 

Most heart attacks don’t happen the way we see them on TV.   Granted, some are obvious and immediate, but most heart attacks start slow, with only mild discomfort.  That’s what makes them so tricky!  Hey, you know when something is just not right.  Don’t wait too long if have the following symptoms:

Heart Attack Warning Signs for Men (from the American Medical Assoc.)

  • Chest Discomfort – Take heed if you are feeling uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Other Upper Body Discomfort – You may feel pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of Breath – This could happen with or without the chest discomfort or pain.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat, feeling lightheaded or nauseous

Heart Attack Warning Signs for Women

Cardiovascular disease is the Number 1 cause of death in women and it is the most preventable.  Women experience the same heart attack symptoms as men, most commonly chest pain or discomfort, but women are more likely than men to experience the other common symptoms, particularly shortness or breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain

Women, Respond to these Symptoms!

  • Chest pain – may include back pain and/or deep aching and throbbing in one or both arms
  • Breathlessness and/or inability to catch your breath when waking up
  • Clammy sweating
  • Dizziness — unexplained lightheadedness and possible blackouts
  • Anxiety — unusual nervousness, feelings of impending doom
  • Edema — fluid retention and swelling in the ankles or lower legs
  • Fluttering, rapid heartbeats or palpitations
  • Nausea or gas
  • Feeling of heaviness, such as pressure-like pain between the breasts that may radiate to the left arm or shoulder 

What do I do if I Think I’m Having a Heart Attack?

Don’t second guess!  And don’t have someone drive you to the hospital if you can help it.  You’ll almost always get faster treatment if you call 9-1-1 and let the EMS crew take care of you.  You’ll also get faster treatment at the hospital if you arrive by ambulance.  Don’t ever drive yourself to the hospital unless you have absolutely no other option.

Difference Between a Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest

A heart attack is caused by a circulation or blockage problem in the heart whereas cardiac arrest is caused by an electrical problem in the heart.  Sudden cardiac arrest is more frequent in people who have had heart attacks before because their hearts may be damaged and may pump poorly. Damage to the heart muscle can lead to disturbances of the electrical system and in turn can cause dangerously fast heart rhythms that can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. 

Signs of Sudden Cardiac Arrest:

  • Cardiac arrest strikes immediately and without warning
  • The victim is unresponsive (no response to tapping on shoulders)
  • The victim is not breathing normally (no normal breath when you tilt the head up and check for at least five seconds)

What do I do of Someone is Having a Cardiac Arrest?

  • Tell someone to call 9-1-1 and get an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) (if available)
  • You begin CPR immediately (while someone else calls 9-1-1).  Read CPR Myths, Tips and Updates
  • If you are alone with an adult who has these signs of cardiac arrest, call 9-1-1 and get an AED (if one is available) before you begin CPR
  • Use an AED as soon as it arrives

Stroke Warning Signs (from the American Stroke Assoc.)

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • 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

Notice that the word *SUDDEN* appears in every case.  One of the “signs” is that these symptoms happen very quickly.  Like, you’re fine one second and not fine the next. 

What do I do if I Think I’m Having a Stroke?

If you or someone you’re with has one or more of these signs, immediately call 9-1-1 so an ambulance can be sent.  As with a heart attack, time is the biggest factor in your odds for recovery.  Check the time the symptoms first appeared so you can tell the EMS team.  There is a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) that, if administered within three hours of the start of symptoms, can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.

Stop heart disease and strokes before they happen!  Read Staggering Heart Facts, 5 Ways to Celebrate American Heart Month and Are You At Risk for Heart Disease?.

Do you have something to share that might help someone?  Please reply below!

Valentine’s Day and President’s Day aren’t the only holidays we’ll be celebrating this month. February is American Heart Month! Cross my heart.

It seems that matters of the heart are quite serious. So serious that every year since 1963, Congress has required the President to proclaim February ‘American Heart Month’.  The American Heart Association helps to draft this proclamation and get it signed.  Who knew?

Even so, after 45 years of ‘proclaiming’, cardiovascular disease remains the number 1 killer (including stroke) in our nation today. Let’s join President Obama and the American Heart Association’s plight to fight heart disease and raise awareness, shall we?

Here’s how:

1. Get Heart Smart. Like the American Heart Association (AMA) says, “learn and live”. Did you know that the death rate from cardiovascular disease (CVD) is higher for females than males? And that the warning signs of a heart attack may be different for men and women?  Read Staggering Heart Facts and Heart Attack & Stroke Warning Signs: Men vs Women.

2. Check yourself. According to the AMA, if you’ve made it to middle age (eg, 50) and you’re a non-smoker without high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes then congratulations!  You can look forward to: a substantially longer life; lower risk for CVD; lower risks for CVD death and non-CVD death; better health-related quality of life in older age; and, substantially reduced Medicare expenditures. Start monitoring your cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels now. They’re sneaky and you might not even know you’re in trouble. The good news is, they are manageable with help from your doc. If you smoke, quit it. It’s gross and stinky and stupid and so uncool,  unlike you.  Here is a List of Heart Attack & Stroke Risk Factors and Guidelines.

Products to help you measure and track from home:  cholesterol test kit, blood pressure monitors and diabetic meters & test kits.   Monitor your heart health here.

3.  Get Heart Healthy.  Eating right, staying fit and managing your weight will go a long way to keeping a heart attack at bay.  Learn how here.  Get started with  heart rate monitors.

4.  Spread the Word.  As with all diseases, I believe that awareness is half the battle.  You could save someone’s life by sharing your knowledge about heart disease with your family, friends, schools, social groups, community groups.  Even if it is just in casual conversation, try to work in “have you had your blood pressure checked lately?”  or “did you know that… “.  The AMA asks you to be part of the cure.  Become an advocate!  Another way to spread the word is to get involved with local heart charities.  You can volunteer at hospitals, deliver leaflets door to door, start your own campaign or attend charity events.  Here are some specific ways to give.

5.  Cover your bases.  Do you know what to do in the event of a heart attack?  Do you know how to do CPR? Does your school, home, company and shopping mall have an Automated External Diffibrilator (AED)?  They are so affordable now, there is no excuse.  If you or a loved on is at risk for a heart attack you may also consider getting a 911 Medical Alert System

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If you’ve read all of these articles and you crave more, visit the American Heart Association website.

Happy American Heart Month!  Please take care of yourself.  We heart you.

-v

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