Protecting Your Heart

February 16, 2023

After suffering from cardiac arrest during a football game earlier this year, Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin is partnering with the American Heart Association to increase CPR awareness and education — just in time for American Heart Month. 

Hamlin’s very public medical emergency is fresh in everyone’s mind, but did you know that anyone can be at risk of going into sudden cardiac arrest? 

To minimize your risk, it is important that you do what you can to keep your body healthy. It’s also worth knowing CPR and what to do in an emergency so that you can help others.

What is sudden cardiac arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops functioning. It can happen without warning and is different from a heart attack, which happens where there is a blocked artery that restricts blood flow to the heart.  

If someone suddenly is not responsive, not breathing or only gasping for air, this could mean that they are in cardiac arrest. 

How can you help someone?

As in any medical emergency, the first thing you should do is call 911 if you find yourself in a situation where someone goes into cardiac arrest. That will ensure that medical professionals are on the way, and getting help quickly is critical. 

It also helps to know if there is an automated external defibrillator available and where to find it. An automated external defibrillator can be used to shock someone, restoring a normal heart rhythm. Once you turn on the machine, you follow the prompts.

Knowledge of CPR is also beneficial. By performing CPR, you can provide the help needed until emergency responders arrive. CPR involves chest compressions. The American Heart Association says to put your hands in the center of a person’s chest and press hard at 100 to 120 beats per minute, pushing it down at least two inches. Allow the chest to come back up to its normal position after each push and continue performing CPR until first responders arrive. 

For more resources about CPR, click here

How can you protect your heart?

It’s certainly important to know what to do in an emergency. It’s also important to know how to keep your heart as healthy as possible. 

Dr. Shane Ridge, of Middlesex Health Primary Care - Westbrook, recommends making good food choices and exercising regularly. It is recommended that individuals exercise for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (brisk walking), 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (jogging or cycling) or some combination of the two every week. This is in addition to muscle strengthening activities at least two days every week. 

“In general, exercise — even just walking — can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, promote weight loss and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke,” Dr Ridge says.

As for making good food choices, Dr. Ridge recommends staying away from processed food and minimizing alcohol, sodium, partially hydrogenated oils, soda and desserts. Instead, Dr. Ridge says to focus on eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grain, nuts and legumes. 

Featured Provider

Shane T. Ridge, DO

Shane T. Ridge, DO

Specialties / Areas of Care

  • Primary Care


  • Westbrook, CT

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