“Everyone here knows somebody who has experienced heart disease or a stroke,” said Colleen Campbell to staff members at Plano Profile. “Heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 2 killers worldwide—and it’s 80 percent preventable.”

Colleen represents the American Heart Association and joined us today for a hands-on CPR lesson. “One in three people will have an incident,” she said.

We all looked at each other and the realization hit hard—not one, but four of us in our group of 12, would become a victim of heart disease or stroke.

Know the symptoms
Statistics about cardiovascular disease and stroke are out there (and have been for some time), but it’s easy to go through our busy days and ignore them. Colleen implores, “Do not ignore the symptoms.”

High blood pressure is a strong indicator of heart issues (and not just heart disease but chronic kidney disease.) A healthy blood pressure is 120/80. High blood pressure is present if the resting blood pressure is persistently at or above 140/90 for most adults. Blood pressure can be too low. If it’s excessively less than 90/60, it can cause dizziness and fainting and indicate serious heart, endocrine or neurological disorders.

Pain or pressure, even tingling in your chest or in your left arm is a strong sign of an impending heart attack, too. If these symptoms go on longer than one minute, call 911.

Sweating, fatigue and unexplained exhaustion are also warning signs of a heart attack. Listen to your body and trust your instincts. Shortness of breath and a feeling of being restricted are also warning signs, as well as nausea, dizziness and a feeling of being lightheaded or disoriented.

Hands-only CPR
Colleen explained that the first thing you do if you or a loved one is experiencing signs of a heart attack is to call 911, because as soon as you start doing chest compressions on that person, you’ll need both hands. So call 911 and put them on your speaker phone.

Then, palms down, put one hand over the other and start compressions in the center of the victim’s chest. Put your entire body weight into it and compress 2 inches down over the sternum. You may (and are likely to) crack or break the person’s ribs. But, in Texas, we have the Good Samaritan Law, so you can’t be sued by someone you’re helping. “Any help is better than no help,” said Colleen.

How many compressions do you do and how fast? The American Heart Association has put out a video encouraging all of us to go by the “Stayin’ Alive” song. Got the beat in your head? “Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive…ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.” Do compressions until the ambulance arrives and medics can take over.

Educating our youth
As adults, we have learned by now that diet and exercise are critical to heart health. “Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times a week is recommended,” said Colleen, adding that fruits and vegetables are as important as an active lifestyle. Moderate exercise includes even a slow walk.

The American Heart Association is at work in our schools to teach our youth the same thing. In elementary schools, students are building gardens where they are planting, cultivating and learning about the nutritious value of fruits and vegetables. The 26-week course teaches how to grow these great resources, but also how to cook them. “Some kids have never had these fruit and vegetables in their home, so their parents don’t know how to cook them. So, they are educating their parents on nutrition…and they’re excited about it! Because face it, when you grow something, you’re proud of it,” Colleen said.

Other educational initiatives of the American Heart Association are Jump for Heart (a jump rope program for elementary schoolers) and Hoops for Heart (a basketball program for middle schoolers.)

How can you help?
There are three annual events that we can all be apart of to support the American Heart Association and promote living a heart-healthy life. Check it out!

Heart Walk | September 10, 2016 | Dallas

Go Red for Women Luncheon | Every February during Heart Health Month | Dallas

Collin County Heart Ball | November 5, 2016 @ 6 p.m. | Hilton Granite Park Hotel, Plano