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Women: Don’t Ignore These 3 Subtle Heart Attack Symptoms

Dramatic chest pain isn’t always one of the clues

We always associate chest pain with heart attacks, and for good reason, but it’s not the whole story — especially for women. While chest pain is the most common symptom of a heart attack, women can have symptoms that aren’t related to chest pain at all. They need to be on the lookout for other, subtler symptoms.

Also, we need to dig deeper into the symptom of chest pain for both men and women as it relates to heart attacks. It is seldom as dramatic as you might think, and it can feel like pressure or heart burn that  comes on over time. Below, find three symptoms you should watch for, including information about how to tell if they are benign or cause for concern.

1. Unusual fatigue

Like many women, you’re probably busy most of the time. You may take care of a family, run a household, work outside the home and care for aging parents. You are probably also tired a lot of the time. Most likely this is normal.

But you should pay attention to fatigue if it is new or dramatic. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • You are suddenly worn out after your typical exercise routine.
  • You aren’t exerting yourself, but have fatigue or a “heavy” chest.
  • Simple activity like making the bed, walking to the bathroom or shopping makes you excessively tired.
  • Although you feel exceptionally tired, you also experience sleep disturbance.

2. Sweating and/or shortness of breath

As women age, a lack of exercise and gradual weight gain cause issues like shortness of breath. Hot flashes are a common complaint for many women during menopause.

But these symptoms can signal a heart problem when they happen in certain situations:

  • Sudden sweating or shortness of breath without exertion
  • Breathlessness that continues to worsen over time after exertion
  • Shortness of breath that worsens when lying down and improves when propping up
  • “Stress” sweat (cold, clammy feeling) when there is no real cause for stress
  • Sweating or shortness of breath accompanied by other symptoms such as chest pain or fatigue

3. Neck, jaw, back pain

As intricate as our body’s systems are, they are very adept at giving signals when there is something wrong. When there is a problem with the heart, it triggers nerves in that area, but you sometimes feel pain elsewhere.

Pain in the jaw, back or arms may signal a heart condition, especially if the origin is hard to pinpoint (for example there is no specific muscle or joint that aches). Also, if the discomfort begins or worsens when you are exerting yourself, and then stops when you quit exercising, you should get it checked out.

Here are some other signs to look out for:

  • Women, in particular, can have pain in either arm — not just the left one like many men.
  • Pain in the lower or upper back often starts in the chest and spreads to these areas.
  • The pain is sometimes sudden, not due to physical exertion, and can wake you up at night.
  • You may feel pain that is specific to the left, lower side of the jaw.

What to do if you notice symptoms

Women often say they noticed some of these three warning signs weeks or a month before a heart attack. The sooner you report a problem, the better the chances are of catching an issue before it becomes a full-blown heart attack. If you experience any of these symptoms, take note and visit your doctor as quickly as possible.

When you see your doctor:

  • Bring a list of your symptoms and when they are occurring.
  • Let him or her know about any related family history.
  • Talk about stress or anything going on in your life that might contribute to a problem.

Your doctor likely will listen to your symptoms and check your pulse and blood pressure. He or she may order blood work, which will show whether your heart is damaged. Your doctor also may use an electrocardiogram (EKG) to tell whether the electrical activity of your heart is normal, or an echocardiogram to view images of the heart to see if damage has occurred.  All this is important in identifying any problems and taking steps to intervene before a possible heart attack.

When to call 9-1-1

Get help right away if you have chest pain or discomfort along with any of these symptoms, especially if they last longer than five minutes:

  • Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, left shoulder, back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Sweating or “cold sweat”
  • Fullness, indigestion, or choking feeling (may feel like heartburn)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Light-headedness, dizziness, extreme weakness or anxiety
  • Rapid or irregular heart beats
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Grieving father is ‘All Heart’ about turning son’s tragic death into life-saving cardiac program

Jim Fisher, whose teenage son, Sean, collapsed and died on a football field after going into sudden cardiac arrest, the result of an undetected heart defect, stood inside Saint Peter’s University Hospital’s state-of-the-art simulation center in New Brunswick.

An easel displaying four oversized color pictures of Sean, who died on his 13th birthday in August 2008, created a heart-touching backdrop as Fisher, a resident of Waldwick in Bergen County, spoke to members of the media about the Sean Fisher Memorial Foundation’s latest mission.

“He’s my inspiration,” Fisher said, glancing over his shoulder at the quadrant of photographs of his only child. “When I get discouraged, I just take a look at a picture of him and say, ‘Get back up there, you’ve got work to do.’ ”

A tough-as-nails union carpenter, Fisher, with tears welling in his eyes, explained that cardiac screenings — providing free ones was initially the primary goal of the foundation established in his son’s name — are not enough to prevent sudden cardiac death in athletes.

According to the American Heart Association, the incidence of such deaths is one in 200,000, but Dr. Nidhi Kumar, a cardiologist and Medical Director of Women’s Health at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, said many experts believe the incidence is greater, making the need for rapid response and the availability of automated external defibrillators paramount.

While state law requires all public and private K through 12 schools in New Jersey to have an AED within reasonable proximity of a gymnasium or athletic field, as well as an emergency action plan for sudden cardiac arrest, no such legislation exists for youth leagues.

Youth leagues are not mandated to have an AED on site and less than 30 percent of youth league coaches are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), according to a Sports & Fitness Industry Association and Aspen Institute report, the results of which appeared in the Washington Post.

Fisher, in concert with the Players Development Academy, a nationally recognized elite soccer club headquartered in Somerset, is trying to change that statistic starting with a grassroots effort in the Saint Peter’s University Hospital’s simulation center, where more than 80 coaches from PDA will receive training in CPR and AED use before the start of the spring season.

The initiative is part of the All Heart program, whose goal is to educate coaches and leaders of youth sports leagues nationwide about the need to be trained to handle a sudden cardiac arrest emergency, which results from an electrical disturbance in the heart that compromises its ability to pump blood to vital organs. Without immediate treatment, through CPR and defibrillation, death ensues.

“We’re bringing the solution right to the field,” said Fisher, his previously somber voice now filled with enthusiasm, revitalized at the prospect of saving lives. “If coaches have the tools and know what to do, we can start CPR and work with the AED, and hopefully nine out of 10 times the kid will survive.”

The day he died, Sean Fisher, who was about to enter eighth grade, collapsed on the field while warming up with his Waldwick recreation football league teammates on Aug. 25, 2008. According to a report in the Star Ledger, a parent certified as an emergency medical technician who was nearby tended to Sean Fisher, pulling off his helmet to find him gasping for air. The EMT administered CPR. Waldwick police and paramedics arrived and used a defibrillator before taking Sean Fisher to Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, where the 13-year-old was pronounced dead.

“The reason we designed this program is we realized that if we really wanted to make a difference, we needed to change the model on how we responded to these emergencies,” Kumar said of the All Heart program. “This type of an emergency is an emergency where timing and every second counts. The risk of mortality from a sudden cardiac arrest increases 10 percent every minute without defibrillation, so the thought is that if we train coaches to be first responders, we can address the issue immediately where a coach is in a position to react, respond and save a life.”

In his dual role as Rutgers University’s women’s soccer coach and PDA’s director of girls coaching, Mike O’Neill, a lifelong friend of Fisher, served as the lynchpin between the Sean Fisher Memorial Foundation, PDA, Kumar and Saint Peter’s University Hospital, which previously worked with O’Neill’s players on other community initiatives.

On Wednesday night, three PDA coaches received intensive hands-on CPR and AED training in the Saint Peter’s University Hospital simulation center, where the coaches earned the American Heart Association’s Basic Life Support certification.

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Newlywed saves husband’s life after sudden cardiac arrest

“In that moment, you know, you really don’t know what type of or how much strength you really have,” she said, “because I thank God just for putting it in me to act in that way because I hadn’t taken a CPR class in five, six years.”

Chyna dialed 911 and then went to work to help save Robert, who was suffering from cardiac arrest. Giving her husband CPR in the first four minutes of the event prevented permanent brain damage to her young husband, doctors say.

“I didn’t feel like he was gone. I knew that he’s going to be OK,” she said, remembering when Indianapolis fire emergency response teams arrived and took over CPR.

They hooked Robert up to heart monitors and continued CPR for the recommended 30 minutes. Robert said he felt fine at work, and after coming home to go to sleep.

“And then just to take up like that, and her seeing me like that. I’m just grateful for life every day now. I truly am,” Robert said.

Robert spent two and a half days in a coma, and was back at home for Christmas in just six days, with no physical or mental disabilities. The couple said they hope everyone who hears their story will consider taking a CPR class, because it truly saves lives.

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Woman given instructions for CPR over the phone after calling 911

SPOKANE, Wash. – Imagine trying to save someone’s life when you have no medical training. It was the situation one North Spokane woman found herself in Saturday when she called 911, the Spokane Fire Department says.

The incident occurred on the 2900 block of West Rowan Street. The caller told the dispatcher she’d heard her roommate scream and fall to the floor. When she walked out of her bedroom, she found her roommate lying on the floor and unresponsive; his life then in her hands.

Immediately, she dialed 911. The dispatcher who answered, sent fire crews and medics to the home while simultaneously giving the woman quick instructions of how to begin CPR. Spokane Fire Department Chief Brian Schaeffer says early CPR gives first responders a better chance to save the man. They arrived minutes after the first call.

Seconds can mean life and death when someone isn’t breathing or their heart is not pro-fusing effectively so its critical to get on the chest right away and start compressions and that’s exactly what happened,” added Schaeffer.

The man was transported to a local hospital for treatment. The lifesaving measure by his roommate; giving him the best chance for long-term survival.

Chief Schaeffer wrote on Facebook that one member of the fire department stuck around after the traumatic incident, to clear snow around the home on the walkways for the woman.

The fire department wants to use this as a reminder that you never know when you’ll have to spring in to action and being CPR certified, could mean the difference between life and death.

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Researchers Link Restless Leg Syndrome And Heart Disease

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Carol Boehm has symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

“I notice if I’ll be laying in bed, sometimes it feels like you just don’t know what to do with your legs. You’ll feel like something’s crawling on it,” Carol describes. Her mother died of congestive heart failure. She also had restless leg syndrome.

“Any time she would lay down and try to get any rest, it was just so uncomfortable,” Carol says. “They say you just don’t know what to do with your legs when that hits you.”

Researchers at Penn State University have linked the condition to an increased risk of heart disease.

“Patients that did report symptoms of restless leg syndrome actually were found to have not only increased risk of cardiac disease, but from dying of cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Christopher Pray, a cardiologist at St. Clair Hospital.

“With restless legs syndrome, people have an irresistible urge to move their legs, especially at rest or at night. Why it happens is unknown, though it is thought to be related to certain areas deep in the brain and the chemical signal dopamine. It affects up to ten percent of the population, and it’s treated with lifestyle changes and a wide variety of medicines,” says KDKA Health Editor Dr. Maria Simbra.

To look at the association with heart disease, the researchers looked at the information collected from the Nurses’ Health Study. This included nearly 60,000 women, and involved questionnaires every two years from 2002 to 2012.  When the analysis took high blood pressure and obesity into account, the link between physician-diagnosed restless leg syndrome and cardiovascular related death was even stronger, especially with three or more years of symptoms.

Other explanations could be at play, for example, it could be interference with sleep itself. So before declaring restless leg syndrome a stand-alone risk factor for heart disease, Dr. Pray wants more study and more consistent correlation.

“I think that’s a very likely explanation. Any disorder that interferes with our normal sleep architecture has all sorts of devastating effects on the body over time,” Dr. Pray says.

Turns out, Carol fits the pattern.

“I do have heart disease. I had a heart attack three years ago,” she says.

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Naloxone reverses 93% of overdoses, but many recipients don’t survive a year

(CNN) As the opioid overdose epidemic continues to surge, public health officials and first responders have turned to naloxone, the drug that reverses overdose, to help combat the rising tide. New research from Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston shows its effectiveness.

A review of emergency medical services data from Massachusetts found that when given naloxone, 93.5% of people survived their overdose. The research looked at more than 12,000 dosages administered between July 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015. A year after their overdose, 84.3% of those who had been given the reversal drug were still alive.

‘We saved them’

“With this reversal agent, we’re saving the vast majority of people,” said Dr. Scott Weiner, lead author of the study and an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “These are people who got naloxone by ambulance. So we saved them.
The lesson learned is not that naloxone is failing; it’s working.” But it also means that once saved from an overdose by EMS, a patient had about a 1 in 10 chance of not surviving a year. About 35% of those who were dead a year later died of an opioid overdose. And that should be a concern, Weiner said: “It doesn’t treat the underlying problem.”
The findings are being presented Monday at the American College of Emergency Physicians‘ annual conference in Washington. In 2014, only 12 states allowed basic EMS staff to administer naloxone for overdose. Today, laws in every state allow the drug to be administered by anyone, from a physician to a family member.
Dr. Sharon Stancliff, an expert on opioid overdose prevention, said that although it has long been known that naloxone is effective at keeping people alive, it was the first time she recalled seeing such specific numbers regarding its effectiveness.
“It’s really important data, and there’s a lot we can do with it,” said Stancliff, medical director of the nonprofit Harm Reduction Coalition, who was not involved with the research.

Emergency departments fight back

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year alone, there were an estimated 64,000 fatal drug overdoses, most of them from opioids. And for each fatal overdose, there are approximately 30 nonfatal overdoses — many of the cases appearing in emergency rooms across the country. In fact, between 2005 and 2014, the rate of opioid-related emergency visits increased by 99.4%.
Stancliff believes that these hard numbers could be used to help persuade emergency rooms to change how they handle overdoses. Weiner agreed and said the next steps on what to do with a patient are key in helping stop the drug overdose crisis. In emergency rooms, once people recover from an overdose, they may be given a list of phone numbers for treatment centers but not much else.
It is important to get people “engaged in treatment as soon as possible,” he said. A number of innovative emergency departments are working toward this, whether by bringing recovery specialists into the emergency room or even by having treatment facilities nearby.
“Some of the ERs in New York are really jumping on it, starting people on buprenorphine,” a medication used to help wean people off opioids, Stancliff said.
Weiner hopes that these data can be used to help persuade clinicians to figure out the next steps — and persuade patients to take those steps.
“If I’m taking care of a patient in the ED, I want to be able to tell them what the real chances of dying are if they continue using. I can look them in the eye and say, ‘you have a 1 in 10 chance of dying in a year if we don’t get you treated,’ and I think that’s really powerful,” Weiner said.
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A look into two lives saved through CPR

In the past two months, CPR and first-aid training has played a lifesaving role for two residents who had gone into cardiac arrest in public venues. On Oct. 24, two men were playing racquetball at the Arrowhead Community Center at the Channahon Park District, when one of them showed signs of distress. The man’s racquetball partner headed to the front desk to get help.

Employees at the desk, who were trained in CPR and first aid, grabbed an AED defibrillator and helped the individual as another dialed 911. Channahon Park District Executive Director Chuck Szoke said staff used the electric shock from the AED defibrillator and CPR to keep the blood moving. He said nine to 10 people were involved in the effort, so the entire team came together to save the client’s life.

Szoke said that if park districts in Illinois have indoor facilities for physical activities, the AED defibrillator has been made a requirement. Staff on duty have to be trained. He said they have trained staff at Arrowhead Community Center, the Tomahawk Aquatic Center, Heritage Bluffs Golf Course, Heritage Crossing Field House and Skateland.

“We have the insurance that it (AED and CPR training) is always there, it’s our safety net. We hope we don’t have to call upon it, but if we do, it’s good to know it’s working,” Szoke said.

After the incident, the Channahon Fire Protection District presented the team from the Channahon Park District an Honorary Company Commendation award for rendering aid to a community center patron in distress. Minooka and Channahon Fire Protection District Fire and Safety Educator Cindy Wilson said it’s very important for someone to begin CPR right away because by the time the call comes in and first responders arrive, it could be five minutes or more.

“When the brain isn’t getting any oxygen, within four to six minutes the brain begins to die. The tip is to stay calm and make sure 911 has been called,” Wilson said.

Wilson said many people shy away from giving CPR due to the mouth to mouth aspect, but new findings have shown that people can do hands only CPR and just do compressions until emergency medical service personnel arrive on the scene.

Just over one month after the event at the Channahon Park District, Peak Fitness Manager Waldo Yangas said a client in the Minooka gym collapsed. He said he was in his office, heard a crash and thought it was a white board that fell.

Then he remembered he screwed the white board into the wall, so that could not have been the case.

“Just as I was going out of my office door, people were banging on my door shouting call 911, call 911,” Yangas said.

Just after the collapse, former Marine Trent Kreis and his fiancee, Nancy Clark, came around the corner when they heard the noise and noticed the man on his stomach. Kreis thought the man might have been having a seizure, so he and employee Rachel Herzberger rolled him on his side. When signs indicated cardiac arrest, Kreis and Herzberger both checked for a pulse in various locations on the man and, when neither of them could find one, Kreis said his military training took over and he got the man on his back and began compressions.

As Herzberger ran to get the AED Defibrillator, EMS arrived at the gym and took over.

“I believe God had a bigger plan for all of us that day,” Kreis said. Kreis and Clark always work out in the morning and that day they chose an afternoon workout.

“I felt like I have the vital knowledge and experience to save someone’s life. Saving someone’s life comes before me, I’m not going to stand around. I think I have the gift of staying calm in those situations,” Kreis said. “But it wasn’t dumb luck we were there, saving him is given to God.”

Herzberger said she was trained in CPR and first aid at North Central College, where she majored in athletic training. She said she knew what to do and “just went on autopilot and reacted to my first aid and CPR training in school. It was a God thing that Trent and I were there.”

Both men recovered from their cardiac events.

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Pneumonia May Raise Heart Disease Risk as Much as Smoking

Study highlights the role of inflammation

Pneumonia may be as big a risk factor for heart disease as smoking or diabetes, especially in adults older than 65 who are hospitalized, a new study says. Researchers at the University of Ottawa began tracking the link among nearly 1,300 people who developed pneumonia during the course of the study. Participants ranged in age from 45 to older than 65. The researchers followed them for 10 years.

Results show hospitalization for pneumonia was associated with increased short-term and long-term risk of cardiovascular disease, especially for those age 65 and older. Also, the risk appeared to be highest in the first year after hospitalization, but also remained higher than someone who hadn’t been hospitalized for pneumonia during the following 10 years. Pneumonia is a bacterial infection of the lungs, says pulmonologist Neal Chaisson, MD. Dr. Chaisson did not participate in the study.

“Essentially, what happens is bacteria or viruses invade the sacs in your lungs. It’s like a cut that gets infected,” Dr. Chaisson says. ”The result is inflammation in the lungs.”


The study highlights the role of inflammation, an important, mostly unexplored concept that heart disease researchers are aggressively pursuing, says cardiologist Michael Amalfitano, DO. Dr. Amalfitano did not participate in the University of Ottawa research. Inflammation is a response in which the body tried to protect itself. The body tries to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury and begin repairs. But inflammation from a bacterial infection or other source also can damage the body, Dr. Amalfitano says.

Inflammation can occur in the lining of our coronary arteries in response to pneumonia or other infection, as well as known risks such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, Dr. Amalfitano says.

“All of these cause inflammatory damage, which promotes narrowing of blood vessels and unstable plaque that can rupture and cause  a life-threatening heart attack,” he says. People over age 65 may have increased risk because of the greater likelihood of damage to the inside lining of blood vessels and plaque formation, Dr. Amalfitano says.

Don’t wait

Dr. Chaisson says the results also point out the importance of getting pneumonia treated in a timely fashion. “We treat pneumonia with antibiotics to kill off any bacterial infection,” he says. “Then we depend on the body’s immune system to clear up the lungs.”

Complete findings for the study, Association Between Hospitalization for Pneumonia and Subsequent Risk of Cardiovascular Disease, can be found in the online issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Gaston teen saves grandmother’s life with CPR

The CPR Gaston Junior/Senior High students learn in health class came in handy for one teen this month.

“Do you want to know what I did this weekend?” Alexei Davis asked her teacher at Gaston Junior/Senior High School. “I saved my grandmother’s life.” At first, health teacher Katie RietKerk-Schut thought her student might be joking. She wasn’t.

On Sunday, Dec. 10, the Davis family was having a birthday party at their Gaston home for their youngest child. Alexei heard a knock on the door and saw her grandmother standing on the porch. When the 14-year-old approached, she saw her grandmother leaning against the screen door.

“Grandma, are you okay?” Alexei asked.

“Grandma?” she called again.

Her grandmother didn’t respond. Instead, her body slid down slowly until she fell onto the ground, blocking the Davises from opening the door. The whole Davis family ran around to the side of the house and out the garage. Katrina Davis, Alexei’s mom, called 911 and spoke with the dispatcher as she watched her mother turn “bluer and bluer.” At first it was her lips and ears; then, her whole face. Alexei’s grandmother took one shallow breath, then stopped breathing altogether. The 911 operator told Katrina they would have to start chest compressions.

“I don’t know what to do,” Katrina said, looking at Alexei.

“It’s OK,” Alexei responded. “I do.”

Then she took a deep breath and got started.

“I kept thinking, ‘The kids’ grandma cannot die on my doorstep,'” Katrina said.

Alexei completed her first set of 30 chest compressions when her grandmother took a breath on her own. Then paramedics arrived.

“At first I was panicked, but then it second nature kicked in,” Alexei said. “I just did what I know how to do.”

Alexei took a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) class two separate times at Gaston Junior/Senior High, as well as a class at Gaston Rural Fire District. This week, her grandmother came home after a week in the hospital and a pacemaker surgery to correct the heart blockages that caused the incident.

“The paramedics said 100 percent of the time when they get a call like this and CPR wasn’t administered, they lose the patient,” said Katrina, whose mother is still in shock but “very thankful,” she added.

Alexei has long been interested in the medical field. She herself has a blood disorder, and her brother has a medical condition that’s led to multiple brain surgeries, so she thought it would be a good idea to learn CPR.

“I just want to know everything I can if I need to help someone,” Alexei said. “Even if you never have to use it, if there was someone choking in a restaurant and nobody knew how to do the Heimlich (maneuver), it would kill me to just stand by.”

That’s just the kind of person Alexei is, said RietKerk-Schut.

“I could not be more proud,” the health teacher said, “and I am not surprised, because she is always on her game.”

Alexei is also a straight-A student and loves volleyball, Katrina said. RietKerk-Schut has taught CPR since she arrived at Gaston five years ago, because health class is all about “giving kids the skills and knowledge for a healthy and happy life,” she explained. She also offers them the chance to get certified.

“The fact that she knew exactly what to do and there was no hesitation — it’s incredible,” RietKerk-Schut said of Alexei’s quick response. “I still get chills thinking about it.”

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How Black Licorice Can Make Your Heart Jump


Candy favorite contains potassium-lowering compound

If your heart skips a beat every time you think about treating yourself to black licorice — it may know something you don’t. If you eat too much of it, your heart actually may skip a beat or two, or even more. Though it happens rarely, black licorice can cause an irregular heartbeat in some people, says the Food and Drug Administration, and an excess may even cause serious harm.

The troublemaking stuff in black licorice

“Black licorice contains a compound that comes from licorice root that can lower your potassium levels. Lower potassium levels can cause those abnormal heart arrhythmias,” says registered dietitian Kate Patton from Cleveland Clinic’s Section of Preventive Cardiology.

FDA experts say black licorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound derived from the licorice root. The compound can cause potassium levels in the body to decrease. When this happens, some people experience abnormal heart rhythms.

Decreased potassium can be dangerous

Others, especially those over 40 who have a history of heart disease and/or high blood pressure, may experience other potentially serious problems including a rise in blood pressure, lethargy and even congestive heart failure.

“If you already have heart disease or high blood pressure, then be a little more aware of how you’re feeling if you eat this kind of licorice,” says Ms. Patton. “Stop eating it if you think you notice any type of irregular heartbeats.” Ms. Patton adds, however, that foods that advertise themselves as “licorice” or “licorice flavor” use anise oil, not true black licorice. Those foods will not put you at risk for arrhythmias.

How much is too much?

So how much is too much? The FDA says eating multiple 2-ounce bags of black licorice a day for at least two weeks is overdoing it. (That’s a lot of licorice.) Ms. Patton says the phenomenon is rare, but if you do feel funny after eating black licorice and you’ve had heart trouble in the past, don’t hesitate to call your doctor.

“If you have any concern I would definitely call your doctor’s office right away and let them know. If it’s really severe then definitely I would go to the emergency room. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

The good news is if you do happen to eat too much and begin to feel sick, Ms. Patton says potassium levels are usually restored with no permanent health problems.

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