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Good To Know

Stay Safe and Healthy During and After Emergencies

By Family Features | Contributor

As you’re making your emergency preparedness checklist, it’s also important to protect your heart and overall health in the wake of a hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster.

The experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict an above-average Atlantic Ocean hurricane season for the seventh year in a row. Research shows it’s not only physical devastation that impacts the health and safety of people in the path of a natural disaster.

In fact, in a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health 2021 Scientific Sessions, researchers found there were higher rates of high blood pressure, obesity and pre-diabetes among survivors of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017, as well as increased incidences of heart disease and stroke two years after the storm compared to two years prior to the hurricane.

It’s not only hurricanes that can have a negative impact on cardiovascular health. A study published in the journal “Hypertension found a significant increase in blood pressure levels and the incidence of high blood pressure among people who were forced to evacuate following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2012.

Gustavo E. Flores, M.D., a member of the American Heart Association’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care committee, said there are several factors that may lead to increased cardiovascular disease and risk after a natural disaster. 

“During and after a storm, many people experience extreme stress and trauma, which research shows can lead to an increase in cardiovascular disease risk,” he said. “The impact can be more intense for heart disease and stroke patients. Additionally, in the aftermath of a significant natural disaster, property destruction and evacuations affect many basic support resources. This can make it challenging to see a health care professional for routine check-ups or refill or adjust medications, especially for more vulnerable populations.”

Flores, chairman and chief instructor for Emergency & Critical Care Trainings, LLC, said it’s important for people to be prepared and plan ahead. Consider these quick tips from Flores and the American Heart Association, which is celebrating 100 years of lifesaving service as the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all:

  • Take time to write down any medical conditions, allergies and medications, including doses and the time you take medications, along with your pharmacy name, address and phone number. Keep the information with any other “go-kit” items you have handy for quick evacuation.
  • If you need to evacuate, even temporarily, bring your medications and health information with you in a resealable plastic bag to help keep it dry.
  • If your medication is lost, damaged by water or was left behind when you evacuated, research open pharmacies and seek a refill as quickly as possible. Some states allow pharmacists to make medically necessary exceptions on certain types of prescription refills during an emergency.
  • Use the Patient Preparedness Plan if you have diabetes and use insulin. There you’ll find a checklist of supplies and guidelines to prepare for an emergency.

Another way to prepare for a possible medical emergency is to learn how to perform hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use an automated external defibrillator until help arrives. If performed correctly, CPR can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

Visit Heart.org for the latest on heart health and the Disaster Resources page for a wide range of helpful information.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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