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Getting a pulse on our own heart health, in lieu of Damar Hamlin's incident

Posted at 12:36 PM, Jan 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-06 13:36:59-05

BRYAN, TEXAS — It was a sea of red, white and Buffalo Bills blue surrounding their safety, Damar Hamlin, after he went in for a tackle and immediately collapsed, ultimately losing a pulse.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” an ESPN broadcaster admitted while they all waited for in-game updates.

Hamlin, at 24 years old, suffered from cardiac arrest in front of the world on Monday Night Football at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.

While nearly 24 million viewers held their breath, waiting to see the outcome of Hamlin’s sudden injury, conversations began unfolding across the world.

”It’s hard to think in those moments,” said Dr. Lon Young, the chief medical officer at CapRock Health System in Bryan.

Hamlin received nearly 10 minutes of CPR and had an AED used.

These efforts by team doctors saved his life.

‘“You [team doctors] gave our brother Damar another day to live,'' Troy Vincent, vice president of operations at the NFL, said through his tears. “Another chance to fight.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but it’s something, doctors say, is rare in top-tier athletes because of the good condition their bodies are in.

“It’s surprising to see something like this happen, particularly in a well-trained athlete,” Dr. Young said. “It’s very, very uncommon.”

While Hamlin’s situation was an unfortunate one, many people are taking the opportunity to take a look at their own heart health, after asking how this could have happened to him.

“The heart has to beat in a very coordinated manner and there are many conditions where it will cause the heart to beat out of rhythm,” Dr. Young said.

According to the American Heart Association, nine out of 10 people who suffer from cardiac arrest outside of the hospital die.

However, administering CPR can increase the chance of survival by two or three times.

If we're doing chest compressions correctly, we're doing 30% of what the heart normally accomplishes,” said Troy Reynolds, the owner of Brazos Valley CPR and training. "That is enough to sustain them.”

When it comes to protecting our own hearts, experts say it starts with our own heart health.

“It's not how much you do. It’s the fact that you're out there, trying to improve your life,” Reynolds said.

Let’s break down what the biggest differences are when it comes to heart disease.

Cardiac Arrest happens when an electric malfunction interferes with your heart's regular beat causing you to collapse suddenly and quickly.

A heart attack is when your arteries are blocked so your heart doesn’t receive enough oxygen.

Heart failure is when your heart isn’t pumping blood as well as it should be.