In celebration of February as being heart health month, I decided to do a series about the devastation that heart disease has caused in the African-American community. In part one, I talked about how we grew up on a farm in Southern Georgia, and we lived a very happy life. We harvested fruits and vegetables, and we raised our own meats. After our Patriarch and Matriarch passed away, we sold the farm and we move to a big city in Florida. This is when our family’s health started to change. As I stated earlier and par one, my grandparents were the epitome of good health they both lived to be in their 80s. My grandparents had three children: two girls and one boy.
My aunt went to the doctor’s because she was complaining of severe fatigue, a nonproductive cough, and swelling to her legs. She had these symptoms for about four months on and off. When she finally went to the doctors, she was diagnosed with high blood pressure and bronchitis. She was told to go to the emergency room. When she got to the emergency room she was admitted because her chest x-ray was abnormal. While in the hospital, she had an Echocardiogram. An echocardiogram is a diagnostic test that doctors use to assess the function of the heart specifically the left ventricle. The echocardiogram showed that she had a low ejection fraction. She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. This was the first cardiac diagnosis in our family. She was sent home with multiple medications to take. She has lived with congestive heart failure for about 15 years. Her main symptoms are fatigue, and sometimes shortness of breath.
My grandmother’s son, or my uncle, moved to California when he was in his early 20s. He lived there for about 40 years then he moved back down south. After he moved down south, he started working and started acclimating himself from California to Florida. After a while, he started to lose weight and developed a paleness to his skin. Of course, men don’t like to go to the doctors, so he did not go to the doctors to have any test done. After three or four months, he continued to become ill, and my aunt finally convinced him to go to the doctors. When he finally went to the emergency room, he was found to be in renal failure, diabetes, and congestive heart failure. This was now the second diagnosis of congestive heart failure in our family. He died after 2 years of heart and kidney failure.
Finally, my dear mother was never diagnosed; but she had a sudden cardiac arrest a home.. When I think back on it, she did have signs. She was complaining of severe fatigue, and pain to her left shoulder. She was also under a tremendous amount of stress. This happened 15 years ago.
Causes of Sudden Death
Evidence has shown that magnesium deficiency is a factor in sudden cardiac arrest. Coronary artery disease is the most common underlying cause of sudden cardiac arrest. Sudden cardiac arrest results from an electrical disturbance in the heart. Approximately 50% of all cardiac deaths are sudden cardiac arrest. The most common cause of nonischemic sudden death is alcoholism, obesity, and cardiomyopathy. Seventy-five percent of the deaths are due to arrhythmias such as ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation.
Common causes of sudden death include:
- Ischemic heart disease
- Coronary spasm
- Short or Long QT syndrome
- Ejection fraction less than 35%
- Electrolyte disturbance
Treatment of Sudden Cardiac Arrest
The only immediate treatment for sudden cardiac arrest is to restore the rhythm to the heart. If a person has an internal defibrillator, the goal of the defibrillator is to shock the heart back into rhythm. If the person does not have a defibrillator, then CPR is initiated if it is witnessed. If the person survives, the recommendation will be for the person to get an internal defibrillator.
Stay tuned for Part Three as heart disease continues to cause havoc in our family.