Local heart health awareness organization has global goals | VailDaily.com

Local heart health awareness organization has global goals

VAIL — You know how you're told every snowflake is different?

Turns out they're mostly the same, and so are we, my beloved snowflakes.

Dr. Michael Bristow is a cardiologist in Denver and studies heart failure and the genetic predisposition we might have toward it.

We have 21,000 genes, about the same as a roundworm, Bristow told a crowd at last week's Starting Hearts luncheon.

"Now, look at the person next to you. You're about 99.87 percent genetically alike," Bristow said.

If Bristow knows what he's talking about, and he does, then that means most of us have high cholesterol (mine is 210), and high to high-ish blood pressure.

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Throw in some stress and a bad diet and you're a candidate for a heart attack.

A heart attack means blood cannot flow into the heart sufficiently because of plaque buildup on the artery walls.

Sudden cardiac arrest is not that. It's an electrical problem that causes the heart to stop beating.

Both will kill you.

If there's no one around to help you, or they don't know what they're doing, then the survival rate for an SCA is 8 percent. If you do get some help as you hit the floor, then your survival rate increases to around 40 percent.

Dr. Dennis Lipton was on hand to help decode the results. Apparently I'm at a 10 percent risk of having a heart attack, which is good.

"It's normal, but it's normal to die of a heart attack, too," Lipton said.

My blood pressure was a little high because I'd just finished barking at a public relations kid, which we do for sport in this business.

The bioelectric impedance device somehow measures the amount of body fat. I came in at a svelte 22.7 percent, not bad for someone whose idea of a balanced diet is a cheeseburger in each hand. You really are what you eat. My daughter, who thankfully seems to consider me her personal home improvement project, bought me "Forks Over Knives."

Going global

Alan Himelfarb is the new Starting Hearts executive director. His dad died at age 57 from a heart attack.

"It's amazing how one life can affect so many others," Himelfarb said. "These are real people and real lives."

The goal is noble and lofty. They'll be opening Starting Hearts offices around the country and world, beginning in a city in Mexico with a population of about 1 million and not a single defibrillator.

Himelfarb says they can train about 6,000 people a year.

"We've trained 4 year olds. It's a very easy thing to do," Himelfarb said.

At last week's Starting Hearts health screening, they found eight people with problems that had to be dealt with right away, and one of those landed in the hospital for heart problems he didn't even know about. He's doing fine.

BEGINNING Starting Hearts

Lynn Blake was working in Vail Village on Valentine's Day a few years back when she suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. Sue Froeschle did CPR and kept Blake's organs functioning until Vail firefighters could arrive. Three defibrillator shocks later, Blake was back among the living.

Froeschle thought that her boss at the Vail Valley Partnership, Michael Robinson, was asking who wanted CPR training when he asked if anyone knew CPR, she said.

Froeschle said, "I do," and Robinson told her he needed her in the conference room.

Froeschle bolted to the conference room and saw Blake, whom she had never met, lying on the floor not breathing.

Scott McDonald, director of finance, put his mouth on Blake's and gave her two breaths as Froeschle placed her hand on Blake's chest and pushed 15 times. Someone called 911. Blake's skin was dark blue.

Froeschle and McDonald repeated the breaths and chest compressions several times.

As she barely began to breathe, Blake's normal skin color returned and she started moving her arms and head. Firefighters arrived and shocked her three times with a defibrillator and an ambulance took her to Vail Valley Medical Center.

They are all in the process of living happily ever after, and because she wants others to do the same, Blake started Starting Hearts.

"Increase the number of people trained in CPR and the number of defibrillators, and you'll increase the number of survivors," Blake said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

About Starting Hearts

To learn more about Starting Hearts, go to startinghearts.org