By Tessa Roy
Essex Rescue

Thanksgiving Day and the weekend afterward tend to bring a spike in EMS-related calls. From knife related injuries and burns while preparing food to food poisoning and heart failure, experienced EMTs know that turkey day is bound to be slightly busier than normal.

Thanksgiving Day poses a higher risk to those with heart problems because of the salt laden meals. Most Thanksgiving Day dinners will contain the daily recommended intake of salt.

Add that to salt eaten with breakfast or a late-night snack, and there can be issues. The more salt present in the body the more water retained, and that can boost blood volume and drive up blood pressure, putting strain on a weakened heart and blood vessels. For this reason, it’s important for individuals with heart problems or high blood pressure to monitor their salt intake on Thanksgiving Day and the weekend after when they’re having leftovers.

We’re also heading into winter which means that we’re bound to start seeing snowfall. Heavy snowfalls are another indicator to EMTs that emergency calls will pick up, and not just because of the increased risk of motor vehicle accidents. It’s not uncommon for people to have a heart attack when trying to shovel their sidewalks and driveways, especially if the snow is heavy and wet. Even pushing a heavy snowblower can cause a heart attack in some individuals with weakened hearts. Shoveling snow is a strenuous activity and you should treat it like you would treat any other form of heavy exercise.

Make sure that you warm your muscles up before shoveling and take breaks often to catch your breath and hydrate. It also helps to shovel lighter loads of snow versus fewer yet heavier loads. Listen to your body as you shovel, and if you start to feel odd or feel symptoms of a heart attack go inside and call for help.

It’s important to know the symptoms of a heart attack, especially if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or a risk for heart disease in your family. Many people describe a feeling of pain or discomfort in their chest, ranging from a sharp pain to a dull ache or even heartburn-like pain. This pain may last or it may come and go. You may also experience pain in your stomach, back, arms (especially the left arm), neck or jaw.

You may feel tired or anxious. Women are more likely than men to feel nauseous or start vomiting, but those symptoms can show up in men as well. Some people will also feel short of breath or start coughing or wheezing. Sometimes the only symptom you’ll have will be that feeling of shortness of breath, so it’s important to know your body and stay alert to sudden changes. You may be reading this and thinking, “Well if I’m shoveling my driveway of course I’m going to be tired and short of breath and my back and arms are probably going to hurt, too. How am I supposed to know for sure if I’m having a heart attack or not?”

It’s a valid question, and it really comes down to making sure you’re taking breaks while you shovel so that you can keep your heart rate reasonably low and make sure you’re getting enough air into your lungs. It may take a bit longer to shovel, but at least you’ll have some peace of mind. Of course if you are ever in doubt about whether or not you or a loved one is having a heart attack please do not hesitate to call 9-1-1.

As always if you’re interested in joining Essex Rescue please contact Colleen Nesto at 847-4859 ext 4.