Archives for May 2014

Why Get CPR Certified?

CPRBefore I answer that, let me ask a question.  How can a cardiac arrest survivor and self-proclaimed HeartGeek not know CPR or how to use an automated external defibrillator (AED)?  I go around preaching about heart health, gratitude and doing the right thing, yet I wasn’t equipped to help someone experiencing a cardiac emergency.

Time for HeartGeek to man up and get some CPR training!

Chain of Survival

First a little history.  I survived a cardiac arrest because of the quick actions of my wife and the early medical attention I received from EMTs and doctors.  In my case, a near flawless execution of what is known as the “chain of survival”.

The chain of survival significantly increases the chances of survival for someone who experiences a cardiac arrest, heart attack, or stroke.  The five links or steps in the chain are:

  1. Early recognition and call for help, such as dialing 9-1-1
  2. Early CPR
  3. Early defibrillation
  4. Effective advanced life support
  5. Integrated post-cardiac arrest care

Step one is a no brainer and is typically well  executed.  Step two is where things start to go awry.  Sadly, only about 30% of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.  Think that could have something to do with less than 10% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims surviving?

Paying it Forward

I signed up for a CPR/AED class provided through the American Red Cross.  My class was instructor led, lasted three hours, and provided a lot of hands-on practice.

After some brief overview information, we jumped right in to the hands-on part of the agenda.  There were only about a dozen people in my class and we were paired up into teams.  With our partners, we practiced assessing the scene and and preparing the victim to receive aid.

Now it was time to bring out the manikins (you don’t practice CPR on each other).  I had a good idea of what to do here, but going through the paces made me feel more confident that I could pull it off in a real-life situation.  There are three simple steps for CPR:

  1. Give 30 chest compression at 100 beats per minute (see Stayin Alive)
  2. Give two rescue breaths
  3. Repeat

We next moved to the part of training I was most interested in, use of the automated external defibrillator (AED).  If you are like me, use of the AED is the most frightening aspect of providing assistance.  Shocking a loved one or total stranger with a device you have never used before is intimidating.  Rest assured, it’s not as hard as it sounds.

It is necessary that you make sure the victim is not in water and make note of any body piercings (or any metal) or medical patches.  Fire up the AED and it will provide audible step-by-step instructions.  When placing the patches on the victim, avoid those piercings and medical patches if you found any.

The AED will analyze the heart rhythm and make a determination to proceed with a shock.  Next, clear the area, push the button, and the shock is delivered.  At this point, continue CPR until assistance arrives.

The class concluded with instructions for dealing with choking and head/spinal injuries.  I will let you learn more about those in class.

So Why Get CPR Training?

Because four out of five cardiac arrests happen at home.  The life you save will likely be someone you know and love.  Also, it’s easy and it’s the right thing to do!  And yes, I can save your life.


My Favorite Heart Health Gadget

AliveCorWhen I started heartgeek, I promised I would provide information and reviews of technology related to heart health.  In doing so, I found a way to justify my uncontrollable appetite for new phones, watches, fitness trackers, and miscellaneous gadgets.  The first piece of tech up for review is the AliveCor Heart Health Monitor.

What is This Thing?

The AliveCor heart monitor is a serious little piece of equipment that allows you to monitor your heart health in realtime by  providing a personal electrocardiogram (ECG) on your phone.  AliveCor sells the unit integrated into cases ( iPhone 5 or Samsung S4 only) or as a universal attachment plate that can be stuck on the back of any phone.  The universal attachment is a good thing for someone like me that changes phones every 6 months.

Why Use It?

I use it to satisfy my inner geek of course.  But  I also use it to monitor my heart health, particularly my arrhythmia or a-fib episodes.  I can fire up the app on my phone, put my fingertips on the device, and within 30 seconds have an ECG readout.  I am not a doctor, but I can pretty quickly identify a normal or abnormal reading.  So what if there is an abnormal reading?  We will get to that further down.

Is it Hard to Setup?

The setup is very simple.  I attached the AliveCor pod to the back of my phone in about 10 seconds.  It can also be attached to the back of a 3rd party case.  The pod is held securely by what I imagine is some type of 3M adhesive.  Be forewarned, it takes a bit of work to pry the pod off when you change phones.

Next, I downloaded the AliveCor app (free) from the Google Play Store.  Once the app was downloaded, I had to enter a bit of personal information.  AliveCor assures users that all of their personal data is kept safe in two places.  First, in the AliveCor app itself and second, on the AliveCor servers.

AliveCor states that their servers are secure and HIPAA and EU Data privacy compliant.  Fine by me.  If you have looked around this site, you know that I am not too concerned with privacy.

Is it Hard to Use?

Using the device is almost as easy as setup.   Fire up the app, put your fingers on the device, and your live ECG appears on the screen almost instantly.  After 30 seconds, the readout is final and is then stored on your phone and the AliveCor servers.

Now here is the really cool part.  You can print a PDF of the reading or send it directly to your doctor or anyone else who may be interested.  For a small fee, you can send your reading (via the app) for further analysis by a U.S. board certified cardiologist or cardiac technician.

The image below shows a reading I took earlier this year.  As you can see, the heart rate is very low.

Sinus Bradycardia 54

As I mentioned, I am not a doctor, but that reading didn’t seem good.  I decided to use the AliveCor ECG analysis service to get some more insight.  The two levels of reporting and pricing are shown below.  I believe I chose the $12.00 report for this reading.  Although turnaround time is quoted at 24 hours, the report came back in about 10 minutes.

Here a sample of the report I received back.  Honestly, not that informative.

Bradycardia Report

In their defense, AliveCor does have a Education feature in the app.  As shown below you can lookup just about any cardiac term your heart desires.

AliveCor Education

Should You Buy This Device?

If you have arrythmia, I highly recommend purchasing this device.  Although not cheap ($199), the AliveCor device is FDA approved and very good at what it does.  It is simple to use and can provide peace-of-mind anytime, anywhere.  If nothing else, it is a great way to entertain family and friends by letting them see where they measure up against a heart patient.

Exercise After 40? It’s Not Too Late!

older_fitI didn’t have a heart attack at 41 from an over indulgence of healthy living in my 20’s and 30’s.   To put it another way, I smoked, drank, ate crappy food, and sat on my ass during my 20’s and 30’s.  By the time I hit 40, I figured the damage was done, no point in changing.

Wrong again!

A recent study found that starting exercise at 40 has the same heart benefits as starting exercise earlier in life.  One of the studies authors, Dr. David Matelot, says:

“Despite biological changes with age, the heart still seems – even at the age of 40 – amenable to modification by endurance training. Starting at the age of 40 does not seem to impair the cardiac benefits.

However, endurance training is also beneficial for bone density, for muscle mass, for oxidative stress. And these benefits are known to be greater if training was started early in life.”

So it’s not too late.  For more information on getting active later in life, check out this post: Heart Attack and Cardiac Recovery – Get Off Your Ass.

Photo credit: ritavida / Foter /Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Heart Attack and Cardiac Recovery – Relax

Hammock_relaxLife is full of stress.  Before my cardiac arrest and heart attack, my primary two methods of stress reduction were smoking and drinking.  It was the perfect one-two punch.  Smoking, the constant jab, providing immediate stress relief. Drinking, the knockout punch for total relaxation.  My one-two punch served me fairly well for twenty-odd years, only to be derailed by a cardiac arrest.  I was no longer allowed in the ring!  Stick with me and I will show you how I am dealing with stress and even getting better sleep.

Before my event, I knew that my unhealthy lifestyle was not going to lead to a pleasant outcome.  After all, both my father and brother suffered heart attacks before 40.  So how did I deal with the stress of my gloomy cardiac fate?  See one-two punch above.  That’s right, more smoking and drinking!

And then BAM!  Cardiac arrest, heart attack, dead – the Triple Lindy!  As moronic as it sounds, I felt a sense of relief when I ended up in the hospital.  I could now get on with the rest of my life. However, the uncertainty regarding the rest of my life brought on new stress.  Will I fully recover, will I be well enough to support my family, will I be around to see my children grow up?  I have a great cardiologist and he put things into perspective for me.  I can’t remember the exact words, but he advised to put the trauma behind me and live my life as fully as possible.  I could worry about every ache, pain, or what if – or I could go enjoy life.

Do the Right Thing

I still needed to find a way to reduce stress and relax in general.  I considered aromatherapy, but found that just doing the right thing allows me to relax best.  So how does one do the right thing:

  • Act in a respectable and responsible way.  I’m trying. Acting respectable is a challenge.
  • Take ownership for my health and actions.  I do this most of the time.  Exercise has proved a solid replacement for smoking and drinking
  • Have some humility.  I’m trying.  It’s hard when you are the center of the universe.

Again, try and keep it simple.  Don’t be a jerk, do what you’re supposed to do, and get over yourself.


Studies have shown the poor sleep can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.  And, cardiovascular disease can decrease the quality of your sleep.  A vicious circle that I have been trying to solve for years.

You would think with all the simplification, healthy eating, and daily exercise, I would be stress free and sleeping like a baby.  Sadly, not true.  I have made progress with reducing stress, but I could use some improvement in the sleep department.  I can fall asleep, I just can’t stay asleep.  I average about six hours per night. If you remember back to Part 1 of this series, I introduced you to Leo Babauta and his Zen Habits site.   On his site, Leo provides a formula for sleeping like a baby:

  1. Exercise – I do this, not sure I can do much more here.
  2. Get up early – I do this, up between 5-6 everyday.
  3. Establish a bedtime ritual – Doing this, but not in the best way.  I read my books on an iPad.
  4. Keep the bedroom only for sleeping – No TV in the bedroom.  Just that damn iPad.
  5. Focus your attention – I need to do this.
  6. Change slowly – OK.

I like that Leo admits he is still not a great sleeper. I also take a magnesium supplement and have installed f.lux on my laptop to assist with sleep.  Magnesium plays a role in sleep regulation and calming down your brain at night.  I have noticed that I fall asleep faster and get more restful sleep since starting the magnesium supplement.  F.lux makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.  I am not sure that it helps me sleep, but my eyes don’t get as strained at night.  I’ll keep it just for that.

That’s the plan.  Simplify your life, eat right, exercise, and relax.  You have a second chance at life.  Experiment, have some fun, and find what is going to keep you engaged and healthy.   Writing this series made me realize just how far I have come and how much I have changed.  I’d love to hear about how other have changed.  What’s your cardiac recovery plan and how’s it working?  Let me know in the comments below!

The full series of Zen and the Art of Cardiac Recovery Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4

Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)