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World Heart Day sheds light on heart health

World Heart Day is being marked on the Rock today with the Gibraltar Cardiac Association hosting a flag day around Gibraltar and a stall in the Piazza.

One message this year is “whenever in doubt, just go check it out,” said events and cardiac committee member Magelle Segovia.

She had explained that the aim was to continue their message from previous years, which is to create awareness on factors that can cause heart attacks and heart problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, bad eating habits and lack of exercise.

In a candid conversation, Ms Segovia told the Chronicle, "my heart problems started at 27. I had my third child. 24 hours later I was at home and I experienced severe chest pain, a very tight, very sharp pain.”

“I went to the hospital because I was worried it was a clot as I had just given birth and I was admitted into ITU.”

“Everything checked for clots and it was all put down to anxiety, having three boys.”

“But I knew my body wasn't right.”

She was misdiagnosed with anxiety for nine years until she sought a second opinion. She was placed on a monitor for two weeks and they found she had superventricular tachycardia, a condition where your heart suddenly beats much faster than normal.

She was rushed to a hospital in Spain and treated. She has been fine ever since.

Her story emphasizes the importance of early detection and intervention, regardless of age. The association is actively working with the education department to teach children CPR and defibrillator use from a young age, reducing the fear associated with helping someone experiencing a heart attack.

Addressing a study that showed there was CPR gender bias by members of the public in the UK, Ms Segovia said, "in Gibraltar, we are very fortunate; I think people here wouldn't hesitate to help anyone in need."

She again stressed the importance of educating younger generations to ensure they are prepared to assist during emergencies.

Ms Segovia was joined by fellow committee member Maximm Lopez who also spoke candidly about her story.

Her daughter was born with a heart condition where she was born with arteries on the other side of the heart.

“There wasn't any oxygen or blood pumping around the body,” she said.

“When she was five weeks old, it was identified and we had to be rushed to Malaga.”

“It’s a miracle really she's here. Because she was fighting between life and death.”

“They fixed the problem. They put everything back how it's supposed to be and, today, she's a healthy eight-year-old and she just has normal yearly checkups.”

She added that there are a number of children on the Rock with heart conditions or problems. Most of them, she said, are born with them.

With the fact that babies can be born with heart conditions, it was also noted that young people can also develop them or have them go unnoticed.

At present, there is no general screening of teenagers for heart issues. However, some are screened when involved with various sports, such as football.

Aside from natural causes, among the reasons for heart issues are the impact of pollution, heat, diet, and lifestyle, be it lack of exercise or in some cases too much exercise causing a strain on the heart.

“Heart conditions like heart attacks are the number one killer in the whole of the world,” said Ms Segovia.

“High blood pressure is a significant contributor to heart problems,” she added.

As a result, the association is offering blood pressure checks today in the Piazza to encourage people to monitor their health regularly.

It was noted that some pharmacies often do these checks too and that it is easy to monitor your blood pressure at home too.

Ms Segovia reiterated that the Gibraltar Cardiac Association remains dedicated to ensuring that awareness and education, the essential tools in the fight against heart-related issues, are accessible to all.

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