Sunday, August 05, 2001

Heart device advised to clubs

Exercisers might need defibrillator

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In the last three decades, three of Joe Moore's health club clients suffered heart attacks. All were all more than 60 years old. None of them died.

        They are three reasons why Mr. Moore is placing defibrillators in his 11 fitness centers by the end of the year.

        “That's just one more thing that could help in an emergency situation. But actually the (chances) are pretty low that people have heart attacks while exercising,” said Mr. Moore, president of Moore's Fitness, which operates in the Dayton and Cincinnati area.

    Doctors said health clubs should have:
    • Members fill out a questionnaire detailing their medical history.
    • A written plan that is practiced regularly to deal with medical emergencies.
    • Personnel who know CPR on site at all times.
    • An automated external defibrillator (AED), and staff trained to use it.
    Source: American College of Chest Physicians
        A new survey of 65 Ohio health clubs found that 53 percent are without a plan to deal with members who suffer heart attacks or other cardiovascular emergencies on the premises.

        Doctors involved in the study, published in the July issue of Chest, a journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, recommended that health clubs stock an automated external defibrillator (AED) to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm, especially since more older people are exercising and visiting health clubs.

        An AED is a simpler version of the defibrillators used by paramedics. Seventeen percent of the clubs have experienced heart attacks in the past five years, according to the study.

        While health club owners said they're eager to help their clients survive medical emergencies, they're not sure defibrillators are the answer. Most already require CPR training for their staff and ask new clients to provide their medical histories. Sometimes staff members work closely with doctors to provide safe exercise routines for clients with medical problems.

        “We do not serve the over-50 crowd (and) of the last 6 million workouts, we have not experienced one heart attack,” said John Janszen, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Fitworks. The company, based in Richmond Heights, Ohio, has health clubs in Akron, Greater Cincinnati and Cleveland. Staff members with CPR training always are on site.

        He questions the cost of defibrillators and believes they are more needed at shopping malls.

        Bill Engels, 77, of Florence, has been visiting the Fitworks location in Florence since October. Doctors suggested regular workouts after he suffered a major heart attack upon returning from a 16-day trip in Alaska. Since Mr. Engels began working out, he has lost 29 pounds and tests indicate that he is in fine shape.

        He doubts that many people who make use of health clubs will ever suffer the kind of heart attacks that require defibrillators.

        “I'm feeling pretty good,” he said. “In my case, my heart is in better shape than it ever was before.”

        Steve Moeeggenberg, work-place health services director of the Red Cross' Cincinnati chapter, prices the defibrillators at $3,200 and accompanying training at $45 per person. Cruise ships and golf courses stock defibrillators.

        Health club “folks should be trained just like any other work site,” he said.

        Jim Barber, a manager at Courtyard Sportsplex in West Chester, said he needs more time to consider buying a defibrillator.

        “I have mixed feelings on it,” he said. “I don't exactly have doctors sitting in the lobby on call. You push up the heart rate. You push up the envelope, and it's something nice to have.”


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