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Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024

The Healthy Geezer

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Learning life-saving CPR

Q. How do I go about learning CPR?

If you would like to learn CPR, contact the American Heart Association at www.americanheart.org or by phone at 1-877-AHA-4CPR. Another CPR resource is the American Red Cross at www.redcross.org. Or, you can try a local hospital.

CPR, which stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, employs chest compression and mouth-to-mouth breathing to treat cardiac arrest, heart attack, drowning and electrocution. CPR can keep some blood flowing to the brain and heart during an emergency.

Maintaining blood flow can prevent brain injury and save a life. The brain suffers irreparable damage in a few minutes if it doesn’t get oxygenated blood. An unaided victim of cardiac arrest will die in five to 10 minutes.

To learn CPR properly, take an accredited first-aid training course. There is no substitute for taking a course from a trained instructor, but it would be helpful to understand the basics of CPR.

The University of Washington School of Medicine offers a free public service that explains CPR. Go to: https://depts.washington.edu/learncpr/. There are helpful illustrated guides and online videos on this website.

Q. What are “Kegel exercises”?

Kegel exercises were developed 60 years ago by Dr. Arnold Kegel to control incontinence in women after childbirth. These exercises are now recommended for both women and men who experience urinary or fecal incontinence.

Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. The exercises improve the functioning of both the urethral and rectal sphincters.

The muscles that are developed through the Kegel program are the ones you feel when you try to stop the flow of urine. After about eight weeks of exercising, you usually see results, such as less frequent urine leakage.

Urinary and fecal incontinence are examples of “pelvic-floor disorders.” The pelvic floor is a network of muscles, ligaments and other tissues that hold up the pelvic organs – the vagina, rectum, uterus and bladder. When this network – often described as a hammock – weakens, the organs can shift and create disorders.

Q. How can I tell if I’m having a heart attack?

Here are six common warning signs:

1. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes. It may pause for a while and then restart. The discomfort can be in the form of pain or pressure. Some experience a squeezing or feeling of fullness.

2. Pain in shoulders, arms, back, upper abdomen, neck and jaw

3. Shortness of breath

4. Cold sweat

5. Nausea

6. Lightheadedness

7. Anxiety

A blood clot in a coronary artery narrowed by cholesterol and other substances is the usual cause of a heart attack. Doctors call a heart attack a “myocardial infarction.” Loosely translated, the term means heart-muscle death. The clogged artery prevents oxygenated blood from nourishing the heart. This can lead to pain, the death of heart cells, scar tissue and fatal arrythmias.

About 1.1 million Americans have a heart attack every year. About 460,000 of those heart attacks are fatal. About half the fatalities happen within an hour after symptoms begin and before the victim gets to a hospital.

A heart attack can happen anytime – during exertion or at rest. Some heart attacks are like the ones you see in films and on stage; they’re sudden and dramatic. However, most heart attacks build gradually over several hours. Many heart-attack victims have symptoms days or weeks in advance.

If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. There are drugs that break up clots and open arteries; they work best when given within the first hour after the onset of symptoms.

Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. If you would like to ask a question, write to fred@healthygeezer.com.

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