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WEST CHESTER, Pa. (Feb. 13, 2023) – Thump-thump! Thump-thump! 

It is that sound that proves you have a healthy heart running. The heart is one of many essential organs for every living being to survive, pumping blood to every part of your body. 

Taking good care of your heart by eating healthy foods and exercising are many ways to prevent medical conditions that could impact your future. 

Unfortunately, such cases of cardiovascular illnesses are prevalent here in the United States.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that “heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States” and that a person perishes from such cases every 34 seconds. 

Coronary artery disease (CAD) and cardiac arrest are the country’s two most common cardiovascular diseases. CAD is also the “leading cause of morbidity and obesity in men and women,” according to the Pravara Medical Review. 

The coronary arteries are located at the surface of the heart and near where the aorta, which carries the blood to every part of your body, starts at. When the arteries become clogged with cholesterol plaque, it makes the oxygen challenging to breathe in and for the blood to flow through. 

The buildup of plaque is what medical experts call arteriosclerosis. This medical condition can often spark due to smoking, a family history of CAD, obesity, diabetes or stress, as a case-control study conducted by Pravara Medical Review gathered last December. 

Heart attacks can occur because of coronary artery disease. However, a study conducted in 1930 by three scientists found that even light exercise helped normalize cardiac output, thus reducing the chances of such dangerous heart disease. 

Cardiac arrest, meanwhile, is a different ball game. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, or, as the “Manual for Critical Care: Applying Nursing Diagnoses to Adult Critical Illness” also explains, “when the contraction is ineffective in maintaining cardiac output.” Such causes for cardiac arrest include “heart failure, shock, drowning, electrocution, drug overdose and respiratory arrest.”  

Once cardiac arrest occurs, it can be very challenging to awaken a person by simply shaking or shouting at the victim. Doctors and nurses, however, can curtail it by seeking “effective and prompt treatment” early on, such as life support (both basic and advanced) and post-arrest management. 

Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest recently on the field this past January. Dr. William Gray of Main Line Health explained to CBS-owned-and-operated station KYW-TV in Philadelphia that a condition of cardiac arrest called “commotio cordis” was to blame.  

“A strike or a collision at just the right timing at just the right spot on their chest, they can disrupt the electrical system of the heart in such a way the regular heart rhythm collapses,” Gray said. 

Sudden cardiac arrest cases can happen without warning, hence the name. However, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), there are signs to know that someone is suffering from it. 

Racing heart rate or heart palpitations 

— Dizziness or lightheadedness, especially with exercise 

— Repeated unexplained fainting 

— Fainting when excited, startled, during exercise, or right after exercise 

— Seizures during or immediately after exercise 

— Chest pain or discomfort with exercise 

— Excessive shortness of breath or unusual fatigue during exercise (not related to asthma).” 

If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 for medical help immediately. 

Heart attacks, meanwhile, have different common warning signals to look out for, according to the Boy Scout Handbook: 

Persistent, uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest behind the breastbone. The feeling may spread to the shoulders, arms, and neck. It might last several minutes or longer and may come and go. It is not always severe. (Sharp, stabbing twinges of pain usually are not signals of heart attack.) 

— Unusual sweating. A person experiencing a heart attack may perspire even though a room is cool. 

— Nausea. Stomach distress with an urge to vomit is an example of nausea that may occur in a person experiencing a heart attack. 

— Shortness of breath. 

— A feeling of weakness.” 

Again, seek medical attention as soon as the symptoms appear. While waiting for help to arrive, apply CPR by following the Airway-Breathing-Circulation-Defibrillation (ABCD) method if adequately trained. 

In the meantime, however, according to the Personal Fitness merit badge booklet, exercising alone “will not prevent or cure heart disease, but it is one effective way to reduce the risk of cardiovascular (heart or blood vessel) disease.” Only exercises that increase blood flow by a huge amount “to the working muscles for extended periods” will do the trick. 

This Valentine’s Day is only sweet if you have as much love for your heart as your one-of-a-kind partner.  

Benjamin Slomowitz is a fourth-year Media & Culture major. 

  • Altschule, Mark D. “Complete Heart Block.” Physiology in Diseases of the Heart and Lungs, Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1954, pp. 364–366.  
  • “Arteriosclerosis / Atherosclerosis.” Arteriosclerosis / Atherosclerosis – Symptoms and Causes – Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 July 2022,  
  • Dixit, Richa, et al. “Study of Inflammatory Markers and Coronary Artery Disease.” Pravara Medical Review, 1 Dec. 2022, pp. 69–75., 
  • “First Aid.” Scout: The Boy Scout Handbook: A Guide to Adventure, a Guide for Life, 12th ed., Boy Scouts of America, Irving, TX, 2009, pp. 122–177. Boy Scout Handbook. 
  • “Heart Disease Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Oct. 2022, 
  • “How Your Heart Works.” How Your Heart Works | NHS Inform, National Health Services,  
  • “Know the Warning Signs: How You Can Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death.” Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 14 Aug. 2018, 
  • “Maintaining Good Health.” Personal Fitness, Boy Scouts of America, Irving, TX, 2013, pp. 15–27. Merit Badge.  
  • Stahl, Stephanie. “Doctors Explain What Triggered Damar Hamlin’s Cardiac Arrest.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 4 Jan. 2023, 
  • Swearingen, Pamela L., et al., editors. “Cardiac Arrest.” Manual of Critical Care: Applying Nursing Diagnoses to Adult Critical Illness, C.V. Mosby, St. Louis, MO, 1988, pp. 98–102.  
  • Sutton, Amy L. Cardiovascular Disorders Sourcebook. 4th ed., Omnigraphics, 2010.  

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