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The heart-shocking devices featured so prominently on ER
and other television doctor-dramas can now be found in a growing
number of airports, schools, malls, and other public places.
They're also showing up in more and more private places — homes.
These devices, called automated external defibrillators, are so
easy to use that a child who has never seen one before can master
its use in minutes. All the user needs to do is turn on the
machine and place the pads on an unconscious person's chest. The
machine checks the heart rhythm and, if it detects the kind of
abnormality that can be converted with a shock, it tells the
rescuer to press the shock button. To see how to use an automated
external defibrillator, this YouTube video
covers the basics.
The first external defibrillators for home use could be bought
only with a prescription and cost about $2,500. In 2006, you no
longer need a prescription, and the cost is edging down toward
Chest pain is only one of the possible signs of an impending
heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest. If you notice one or more
of the signs below in yourself or someone else, call 911 or your
local emergency number right away.
Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, burning,
tightness, or pain in the center of the chest
Pain, numbness, pinching, prickling, or other uncomfortable
sensations in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or
The majority of cardiac attacks occur at home, so being prepared
could save a life. Options include learning CPR, owning a
defibrillator, and having an emergency plan.
Having a strong network of social connections, friends, and
activities can have a positive impact on overall health and the
ability to recover from serious illness such as a heart attack.
If you are facing surgery or another type of medical procedure,
there are many resources available, including talking with your
primary care doctor, to assist you in making an informed medical
Before my bypass operation, I loved spinning. After cardiac
rehabilitation, I now spin two to three times a week, and my doctor
tells me to keep it up. I worry worry that the grafted blood
vessels will "let go" during exercise. Am I worrying needlessly?
Five years ago, my wife, then age 70, woke up one night with a
fluttering heartbeat. Her pulse was also very irregular. We went
to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with atrial
fibrillation. Her heart rhythm returned to normal in a few hours
as she was being treated with intravenous medication, and has
stayed that way ever since. She monitors her pulse rate and
rhythm several times a week and has routine follow-ups with her
cardiologist. No atrial fibrillation has been seen. She has been
taking warfarin ever since this started, and her cardiologist
wants her to keep taking it indefinitely. Now that the atrial
fibrillation is old history, does she still need to keep taking
Since my bypass operation in 1996, my cardiologist has me take a
thallium stress test every year. The results are always fine. I'm
worried that the radiation from these tests is going to give me
some kind of radiation-related cancer. Do I really need it?
Readers submit advice and tips on coping with heart dosease.
All painkilling medications, whether prescription or over the
counter, pose some degree of risk for stomach irritation or
cardiovascular problems. You and your doctor should discuss the
benefits and risks to determine which choice is best for you.
Researchers concluded that people with diabetes enter the
high-risk group for heart disease an average of 15 years earlier
than those without the disease.
A discussion of the effect of free speech issues on health claims
made by food companies.