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Gibraltar Cardiac Association marks World Heart Day with awareness campaign

Today is World Heart Day and the Gibraltar Cardiac Association is hosting an event at the Piazza to raise awareness of the causes, symptoms and remedies of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD).

Established by the World Heart Federation, World Heart Day informs people around the globe that CVD including heart disease and stroke, is the world’s leading cause of death, claiming 18.6 million lives each year, and highlights the actions that individuals can take to prevent and control CVD.

Starting at 11am and running until 2pm, the public will get the opportunity to learn more about giving CPR and how to use AED (defibrillator) machines.

“Although the official ‘Restart the Heart’ day is the 16th of October we believe that [awareness of] CPR and AED is something we are really pushing for amongst the community,” said chairwoman of the GCA, Suyenne Catania.

“We saw it on live television this summer during the Euros when the Danish player collapsed. We have been campaigning now for two years for it to be taught in schools and we think we are closer to it being done.”

“Every time we have an opportunity we get people round from the GHA to come and demonstrate what CPR is and what AEDs are all about.”

The stall will have mannequins where CPR will be demonstrated.

“It is so that people will not have this phobia of how to deal with an AED even though they tell you to just grab one and they will self-teach you and anyone can use it,” said Ms Catania.

“But let’s be realistic it is not something you feel like grabbing in case you’re going to electrocute someone in the process. So are trying to make people feel it is something they can use.”

“Worldwide there is an over 90% survival rate and it has been proven in a lot of countries where young people start learning how to do CPR and use AEDs that the survival rate is by far much higher.”

“Let’s be realistic, more than often heart attacks are caused at home or in the street, very unlikely in the hospital,” she added.

The association wants to remove the fear people have that they could make a situation worse by giving CPR or using AEDs.

“You can’t make it worse because if you don’t do something the person is going to die anyway,” said Ms Catania.

“So what have you got to lose?”

Association treasurer and committee member Nati Maclaren said that people have a fear of using the AEDs but stresses that the machine will not work unless a person is in cardiac arrest.

“It will only react if there is no heartbeat,” she said. Meaning that if you were to place it on someone who is fine, the machine will do nothing.

“Nothing is going to happen to you and people might be scared of the machine and say I am not going to get hold of that, but there is no need to afraid,” she said.

Ms Catania added that the reason the machine is so successful is because it is so easy to use and does everything for itself, all it does is show the user where to place it.

“It would be more preferable for someone to run off and get the defibrillator than to do the compressions when they do not know how to,” said Ms Maclaren.

“That is something we want to instil into people. Go get it, that is it.”

The association is also using World Heart Day to enncourage people to start making changes in their life that will lead to a healthier heart.

“Give up smoking, change your diet, exercise more,” said Ms Catania.

“It is like everyone is doing a New Year’s resolution and we are trying to encourage people to start on World Heart Day.”

She adds that people need to realise that if they do not look after their heart, it may not cope with whatever life throws at a person.

“For surgery you need to have your heart in good condition, for chemo you need to have your heart in good condition,” said Ms Catania.

“So, unfortunately the heart is the muscle that we need to look after most and when we are feeling OK, we forget about it because maybe we don’t see it.”

“If you hurt a limb or have back pain you are going to look after it.”

“But as the heart sometimes does not give you warning you enjoy yourself to the end until all of a sudden it hits you hard.”

Ms Maclaren adds that it is not just about the heart but the whole blood system, with high or low blood pressure, and even diabetes, all affecting the heart.

They both believe that the biggest heart problems in Gibraltar are caused by diabetes or by blockages resulting in people needing stents placed in their heart. Stress and anxiety also play a role in affecting the health of a heart.

The association will be selling red t-shirts with their new logo in a bid to raise funds after Covid-19 hit donations.

In addition, it will be launching its new website https://www.gibraltarcardiac.com/

The Moorish Castle will be lit up in red tonight to mark the day.

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