Learn CPR and Lower Your Stress: Mount Sinai Cardiologists Emphasize Their Importance During American Heart Month

(New York, NY – January 24, 2023) – Lower your stress, focus on emotional wellness, and make sure you know how to administer “hands-only CPR” as promoted by the American Heart Association (AHA). That’s the message cardiologists from Mount Sinai Heart are emphasizing during Heart Month in February to protect yourself and those around you.

They are also bringing awareness to combating heart disease. Nearly half of adults in the United States—more than 121 million people—have some type of cardiovascular disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States; nearly 650,000 die from it every year. However, heart disease is preventable 80 percent of the time.

Cardiac Arrest, CPR, and Disparities

Cardiac arrest—a sudden, unexpected loss of heart function, breathing, and consciousness—made national headlines this year when Damar Hamlin of the Buffalo Bills collapsed from this condition during a National Football League game. Paramedics immediately administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the field and revived him. However, the American population lacks widespread knowledge about CPR. One survey shows that while 54 percent of Americans say they know how to perform CPR, fewer than 10 percent know how to do it correctly.

Mount Sinai cardiologists say Black and Hispanic adults are less likely to receive CPR, especially in public places, and less likely to know how to perform CPR. In fact, these populations, already at higher risk of heart disease and other heart-related issues, are almost twice as likely to experience cardiac arrest as white adults and their survival rates are twice as poor when compared to white patients, according to the AHA. The organization is challenging all Americans to have at least one person in their immediate circle who knows the life-saving skill.

Icilma Fergus, MD, Director of Cardiovascular Disparities for the Mount Sinai Health System, is trying to meet this challenge by going into communities and providing education in different venues, including schools. “Hands-only CPR”—CPR with chest compressions only, not mouth-to-mouth resuscitation—has been proven to be effective to treat people with cardiac arrest.

“Hands-only CPR performed to the beat of ‘Staying Alive’ is an effective action that can be performed by anyone and can save lives, whereas doing nothing until EMS arrives could be detrimental, and that is why I am so passionate about introducing this to as many people in the community as possible,” says Dr. Fergus.

Johanna Contreras, MD, an advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist and Director of Diversity and Inclusion at The Mount Sinai Hospital, has partnered with the AHA National Hispanic Latino Cardiovascular Collaborative and the Inter-American Society of Cardiology to launch a training campaign called “Héroes Salvando Corazones” to raise awareness about CPR and conduct CPR training in both English and Spanish to educate minority communities.

“As a heart transplant cardiologist I give patients a second chance at life—but we can all give that opportunity to people if we know CPR. Performing hands-only CPR can give someone who suffers cardiac arrest a chance to live. All Americans should have at least one person in their family, office, or friend group know the life-saving skill,” says Dr. Contreras.

Focus on Emotional Wellness to Reduce Stress and Heart Complications

Mount Sinai cardiologists say they’re seeing more cases of stress and anxiety contributing to heart problems among patients. The number of people with high blood pressure, which poses an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, appears to be increasing since the pandemic. Stress can increase hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which negatively impact blood pressure and heart rate. Conversely, heart disease can also lead to anxiety, stress, and depression, creating a vicious cycle of worsening outcomes and less interest in preventive actions such as a healthy diet and appropriate levels of exercise. Physicians emphasize the need to focus on mental health and emotional wellness by taking the following steps:

  • Pay attention—if you note a lack of desire to do things that you used to enjoy, seek help
  • Engage in exercise and physical activity
  • Eat fruits and vegetables; avoid fad diets and processed foods
  • Hydrate appropriately with water and avoid sugary drinks
  • Have a network of friends, family, or groups you can turn to, to talk and seek advice

“Patients seem to be inundated with multiple responsibilities—some enhanced, since the pandemic—such as settling back into the work stream in the office vs. working virtually. I tell them to ‘put on their own mask first’ so they can be fit and able to handle everything else,” explains Dr. Fergus.

Heart Disease Prevention

Certain minority groups, including African Americans and Latinos/Latinas, are also at higher risk due to genetic predisposition, diet, lifestyle factors, and socioeconomic factors. However, illness in any population can be prevented by taking simple steps towards a healthier lifestyle. 

Tips for Lowering Risk of Heart Disease

  • Know your family history
  • Be aware of five key numbers cited by the American Heart Association: blood pressure, total cholesterol, HDL (or “good”) cholesterol, body mass index, and fasting glucose levels
  • Maintain a healthy diet, eating nutrient-rich food and eliminating sweets
  • Limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and men
  • Quit using tobacco or other inhaled substances, including both smoking and electronic cigarettes/vapes
  • Watch your weight and exercise regularly
  • Learn the warning signs of heart attack and stroke, including chest discomfort; shortness of breath; pain in the arms, back, neck, or jaw; breaking out in a cold sweat; and lightheadedness

”Heart disease remains the leading killer in the United States and worldwide. Practical steps everyone can take to help lower death rates from cardiovascular disease include learning how to perform hands-only CPR to help loved ones around them. For their own personal heart health, knowing and controlling weight, blood pressure, sugar, and cholesterol levels, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and getting adequate exercise and sleep every day can go a long way towards lowering cardiovascular risk.,” says Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, Director of Mount Sinai Heart and the Dr. Valentin Fuster Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

About the Mount Sinai Health System

Mount Sinai Health System is one of the largest academic medical systems in the New York metro area, with more than 43,000 employees working across eight hospitals, over 400 outpatient practices, nearly 300 labs, a school of nursing, and a leading school of medicine and graduate education. Mount Sinai advances health for all people, everywhere, by taking on the most complex health care challenges of our time — discovering and applying new scientific learning and knowledge; developing safer, more effective treatments; educating the next generation of medical leaders and innovators; and supporting local communities by delivering high-quality care to all who need it.

Through the integration of its hospitals, labs, and schools, Mount Sinai offers comprehensive health care solutions from birth through geriatrics, leveraging innovative approaches such as artificial intelligence and informatics while keeping patients’ medical and emotional needs at the center of all treatment. The Health System includes approximately 7,300 primary and specialty care physicians; 13 joint-venture outpatient surgery centers throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, Long Island, and Florida; and more than 30 affiliated community health centers. We are consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report‘s Best Hospitals, receiving high “Honor Roll” status, and are highly ranked: No. 1 in Geriatrics and top 20 in Cardiology/Heart Surgery, Diabetes/Endocrinology, Gastroenterology/GI Surgery, Neurology/Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology/Lung Surgery, Rehabilitation, and Urology. New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai is ranked No. 12 in Ophthalmology.

U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” ranks Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital among the country’s best in several pediatric specialties. The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is one of three medical schools that have earned distinction by multiple indicators: It is consistently ranked in the top 20 by U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Medical Schools,” aligned with a U.S. News & World Report “Honor Roll” Hospital, and top 20 in the nation for National Institutes of Health funding and top 5 in the nation for numerous basic and clinical research areas. Newsweek’s “World’s Best Smart Hospitals” ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital as No. 1 in New York City and in the top five globally, and Mount Sinai Morningside in the top 30 globally; Newsweek also ranks The Mount Sinai Hospital highly in 11 specialties in “World’s Best Specialized Hospitals,” and in “America’s Best Physical Rehabilitation Centers.”

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