Are you having heart problems? Cardiac nurse explains how to tell, and how to help others

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Heart problems can be difficult to prevent, but if you are living a healthy lifestyle you're on the right track.

But things can happen anyway.

Following the heart attack and collapse of Councilman Mark Russell at a Madison Academy football game last week we wanted to follow up with one of his rescuers, cardiac nurse Paulette Berryman, about how you can help yourself and others.

Berryman was first to Russell's side last week. While she attended the game as a photographer, she spends her workday at Huntsville Hospital.

We asked Berryman if there was any takeaway from the situation now that the councilman is at home resting.

"The number one takeaway is if you are having health problems or suspect that you're having health problems, see your physician," she said. "Seek out someone who can diagnose that and get you treatment before this happens."

She added, "Don't be stubborn! I've heard so many times in the past few days, 'You know how men are,'" she said. "So, men? Seek out medical help."

But how do you know if you are having heart problems?

"We hear about heart pain as being crushing pain like an elephant sitting on your chest, but heart pain can actually be indigestion. Which is a common occurrence, especially for men," Berryman explained.

But heart issues can take other forms, especially for women. She said fatigue is something to pay attention to, as it is another often unrecognized sign of trouble.

"All of us are tired from our jobs or daily activities," she said.

She recommends listening to your body, "If it's new fatigue. Maybe before, you could walk to your mailbox but now you get tired and short of breath. Maybe before you're trying to walk in the mall, but you can't get as far as you used to because you can't catch your breath."

Russell said he went on walks and stayed in shape, moving often while officiating games. He did what he could to stay active and healthy. Still, this happened to him.

He said one thing that struck him in the days following is that he wants to know more about first aid.

"I didn't know CPR," he said. "And if the situation were reversed, if someone had fallen out in front of me, I wouldn't know how to help them. And I'm going to fix that."

He suggested the council members join him in taking some CPR classes because heart episodes can happen anywhere, to anyone.

Berryman said that is a good suggestion.

"Learn the actions to take if someone isn't breathing or their heart isn't breathing."

She also recommends you always know where your AED is, and how to use it.  And remember to call 911 in an emergency. That way you can get help on the way.

"The AED saved Mr. Russell's life," she noted.