Awareness, training key to assisting in time of emergency

Posted: Sunday, February 18, 2001

"Cardiovascular disease kills approximately one million people in the United States each year -- that's one death every 33 seconds," according to the American Heart Association. In Alaska, 24 percent, or 619, of the deaths during 1997 were caused by heart disease.

Peggy Spittler, executive director of the Alaska office of the AHA, said the organization's message is:

Know the signs for heart attacks and strokes;

Call 911 immediately; and

Start cardiopulmonary resuscitation if necessary.

"And if you don't know CPR, take a class," Spittler said.

Central Peninsula General Hospital is an AHA-approved training center, according to training coordinator Janet Randa.

"There are two primary agencies that provide CPR training, the AHA and the American Red Cross," Randa said. "The reason we're affiliated with AHA is that it is that agency over the last 30 years that has done primary research in the area of heart health."

The training center supplies materials to instructors like Randy Willis, a certified CPR instructor for Central Emergency Services. Willis said CES focuses on training borough personnel, while Pacific Rim Institute of Safety and Management in Kenai focuses on teaching CPR and first aid to the public.

Kelly Gifford, PRISM office manager, said classes are taught one Saturday each month, with others available if necessary. During 2000, PRISM certified 150 individuals in first aid and CPR.

The AHA lists the following heart attack warning signs as the most common:

Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes;

Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms;

Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.

Less common symptoms include:

Atypical chest, stomach or abdominal pain;

Nausea or dizziness;

Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing;

Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue;

Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness.

Warning signs of a stroke include:

Sudden numbness or weakness of 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 headaches with no known cause.

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