Of World Heart Rhythm Week
June 2023 Issue
by Elizabeth Skenes Millen
World Heart Rhythm Week is the Arrhythmia Alliance's annual week to raise awareness of arrhythmias. Arrhythmias are abnormalities in the heart's rhythm which can lead to complications like palpitations, fainting, stroke, and death. The most common sustained arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, which affects two to nine percent of people in the United States.
The heart normally pumps 60-100 times per minute to circulate blood throughout the body. An electrical system inside the heart stimulates the heart muscle to pump with each heartbeat. Abnormalities in the heart's rhythm can result in extra or missed heartbeats, or the heart pumping too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia).
The Arrythmia Alliance's 2023 theme for World Heart Rhythm Week is “Take Fainting to Heart.” The goal is to promote awareness of the link between syncope (fainting) and arrhythmias. Did you know 50 percent of the population will faint at least once in their lifetime? And there is no such thing as a simple faint. Fainting can be an early warning sign for a potentially serious and life-threatening heart rhythm condition.
Ironically, a gentleman who is a medical advisor for one of the large pacemaker companies suddenly fell out of his chair, hitting his head, while eating at a popular Hilton Head Island restaurant. His party thought he must have had too much to drink, and they all laughed it off once he got up and appeared to be fine. Because of his medical expertise, he knew it wasn’t a fall but a fainting, and sure enough, his physician confirmed he needed a pacemaker.
Had he gone into cardiac arrest at the restaurant, which easily could have happened, his chances would have been grim, as this particular restaurant did not have an AED defibrillator on site.
Another initiative of the Arrhythmia Alliance is raising awareness of the importance of defibrillators. Did you know your chance of survival increases more than 60 percent if someone uses an AED defibrillator to save your life as opposed to CPR alone? The Arrhythmia Alliance wants you to remember this acronym: A.S.K. It stands for Always Seek and Know if there is a defibrillator nearby and where it is located. Once you become accustomed to looking, you will find they are in more places than you realized. However, the alliance has a long way to go with many places that should have them and do not.
Are you a golfer? How many stories have you heard of golfers dying from cardiac arrest out on the course. A nearby defibrillator can make the difference between life and death. Ask your club, favorite golf course, tennis center, pickle ball arena, grocery store—basically everywhere you go—where the defibrillator is.
AEDs are simple to use; the machine talks to the person administering help, giving step-by-step instructions. You cannot hurt someone you’re trying to help!
Here is great news for the Lowcountry: The Arrhythmia Alliance organization is a global non-profit promoting awareness for all issues pertaining to the electrical systems of the heart. It was founded in the United Kingdom; however, the American Headquarters for the Alliance is on Hilton Head Island! Lowcountry residents have this wonderful resource right here in our area. The Alliance, which started their expansion to the U.S. only three years ago, is looking forward to becoming as large of an advocate for heart arrhythmia issues here, as in the rest of the world.
The Arrhythmia Alliance has a wish list you can help fulfill:
• Know your pulse. If pulse checks were routine, thousands of lives, and thousands of debilitating strokes, could be saved every year.
• A.S.K. where the defibrillator is! Always Seek & Know.
• There is a helpline - 843-415-1886. (This is not an emergency line)
• Log onto www.heartryhthmalliance.org to learn more about arrhythmias and World Heart Rhythm Week.
• Please help advocate, volunteer and/or donate. Get involved and help our community—your neighbors, friends and family be more heart aware. You may literally be saving someone’s life! Call 843-415-1886.