Nightwatch Healthwatch

Nightwatch Healthwatch

The paramedics and EMTs on Nightwatch work hard to save the lives of everyone they encounter on their shift — and they want to help you, too. Nightwatch Healthwatch features educational facts, advice on prevention, and helpful tips inspired by the calls on the show, each one vetted by health professionals. Check back after new episodes of Nightwatch to see the latest post and discover how you can live a healthier life.

4 Things You Should Know About High Blood Sugar

Season 2, Episode 11: "Katrina"

Healthy blood sugar levels should range between 70-99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) eight hours between meals (a "fasting" level), and less than 140 mg/dL two hours after a meal. If your fasting blood sugar consistently rises to 126 mg/dL or above, your body is not producing enough insulin or not processing insulin properly, you may have diabetes. High blood sugar, also called hyperglycemia, is a condition that can have serious consequences — but it is also manageable. Here are four important facts about high blood sugar.

1. It Can Be Temporary

Your blood sugar can rise above normal in certain situations without producing any permanent effects or symptoms. This would be considered temporary high blood sugar.

2. It Can Be Deadly

If left untreated, chronic high blood sugar can cause damage to your kidneys, brain, and blood vessels, and even result in a buildup of acids in the bloodstream (ketones) that can lead to a diabetic coma (ketoacidosis). These conditions occur when your body breaks down fats for energy instead of sugar due to a lack of insulin. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include shortness of breath, breath that smells fruity, nausea, and dry mouth.

3. It Might Mean You Have Prediabetes

Prediabetes is when your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes. Without lifestyle changes to improve their health, 15-30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years. Prediabetes also increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

4. Exercise and Healthy Foods Help

You can cut your risk of getting type 2 diabetes in half by eating healthy and being more active. Exercise is a natural way to lower your blood sugar and, when combined with a diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins, will help keep your weight and blood sugar at healthy levels.

To learn more about high blood sugar, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

5 Steps to Safely Leave an Abusive Partner

Season 2, Episode 10: "Saints and Sinners"

If your partner intimidates you, threatens you, controls what you do, or is violent to you in any way, you may be in an abusive relationship. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can help you find programs, counseling, and legal options that will help in many situations, however in some cases it may be best to leave your abusive partner. The five steps below will help you prepare, but for a detailed guide to safely leaving a relationship — and access to advocates who can help you come up with a personalized safety plan — contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline by phone (1-800-799-SAFE), online chat, or TEXT "GO" to 741-741.

1. Have a Safety Plan

It's important to have a personalized, practical plan that takes your unique situation into account before you leave your abusive partner. In addition to your own safety, you will want to consider the safety of your children and pets, and ways to protect yourself if you're pregnant.

2. Collect Important Items

Keep any evidence of abuse (like pictures of injuries) and/or a detailed journal of violent incidents in a safe place. If possible, put together a bag of essential items, including IDs, emergency money, important legal papers, emergency numbers, extra sets of home and car keys, and any necessary medications.

3. Know Where to Go

Find the closest shelter and ask about resources and your state's laws. Let trusted neighbors and friends know about your situation and develop a signal or plan for when you need help. If you have children, try to practice your exit plan with them in advance. Depending on their age, it may be safest for them to leave your home even if you can't.

4. Make an Unexpected Exit

Leave when the offender will least expect it. If you have time to call the police before leaving, you can request that the police escort you out of the house or be "on call" while you're leaving in case you need help.

5. Ensure Your Continued Safety

There are many safety precautions to consider after you leave. Suggestions include changing your phone number, altering work hours and routes to work, shopping at different stores, and rescheduling appointments known to the offender. If you have a restraining order, keep a copy of it on you at all times and distribute copies to employers, neighbors, and police officers along with a picture of the offender.

For a list of resources that serve specific cultures and identities, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Where To Get Help For PTSD

Season 2, Episode 9: "Dreams and Nightmares"

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can occur after you've been through a traumatic event or events. Symptoms of PTSD can range from flashbacks to a constant state of alert, and symptoms may come and go over time. Although anyone can develop PTSD, combat experiences and sexual assault are traumatic experiences that can often lead to PTSD. Whether you're seeking help for yourself or for a loved one, the resources below are a good place to start.

For an Emergency

If you're in an immediate crisis, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency room. You can also call or chat online with counselors 24 hours a day at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) or the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255, press 1).

For a Diagnosis

There are four main symptoms of PTSD: re-living or re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoiding anything that reminds you of the traumatic event (people, situations, experiences, conversations), negative changes in beliefs and feelings, and feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). If these symptoms persist for weeks to months after the event, you may have PTSD and should seek professional help from a doctor or counselor.

For Treatment

Psychotherapy (sometimes called "counseling") and medication are both good treatments for PTSD. Depending on the individual case, they may be combined. The first step is to find a therapist or a health treatment center that's right for your situation. In the meantime, you can learn self-help and coping strategies from the PTSD Coach Online.

For Support

Whether you're a veteran, a sexual assault survivor, or a concerned family member, there are people and organizations that can help you with PTSD. Visit the National Center for PTSD for a full list of options, and watch videos from veterans to learn about how they live with PTSD every day.

For more information and additional resources about posttraumatic stress disorder, visit the National Center for PTSD.

4 Steps to Calm Yourself During a Panic Attack

Season 2, Episode 8: "Dark Side of the City"

If you're experiencing an intense fear that includes chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, or other discomforts, you may be having a panic attack. While many people who experience a panic attack think that they are having a heart attack, it's important to know that a panic attack is NOT a heart attack — it doesn't mean that you have a problem with your heart, that you're dying, or that you're going crazy. A panic attack is a powerful fear/anxiety response that can be triggered by a specific situation, although many strike for no apparent reason. Although nothing can immediately stop a panic attack, you may be able to help yourself calm down more quickly with these steps.

1. Slow Your Breathing

Panic attacks can make your breathing quick and shallow, which raises your heart rate and exacerbates the attack. Longer, deeper breaths help relax your body. Try breathing in for four seconds and breathing out for six seconds to lower your heart rate and normalize your breathing.

2. Remind Yourself That It Will End

Panic attacks might seem to last forever, but in reality they often last less than 10 minutes. Moreover, six million adults in the U.S. suffer from panic disorder in a given year. You're not alone and it will pass. Remembering this can help ease the anxiety.

3. Distract Yourself

As you start to calm down, it's helpful to distract your mind from the attack. If you're by yourself, create a story about an object in the room — how it got there, where it was made, who owned it first. If you're with others, let them know how you're feeling and see if they'll distract you with a conversation or a story of their own.

4. Consider Professional Treatment

Panic attacks are initially a puzzling and frightening symptom of anxiety and fear. Fortunately, panic attacks are also highly treatable with the help of a trained and skillful therapist. Therapy can help you find and successfully face underlying fears and worries. Therapy can also show you how to recognize and change thinking patterns that lead to panic, and arm you with skills to manage your distress.

For more information on panic attacks, anxiety disorders, and getting help, visit the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

7 Safety Tips for Motorcyclists

Season 2, Episode 7: "Triumph and Tragedy"

In 2013, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured and 4,668 people died in motorcycle crashes. Although not every crash can be avoided, a few smart choices will help keep you safe on the roads and could even save your life.

1. Get Trained

Before riding on the street, take a course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation to learn the proper mental strategies and important riding skills. MSF courses (which are a requirement in some states) teach you the basics, but they also provide risk management techniques and emergency maneuvers.

2. Wear a Helmet

Riders without a helmet are 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury in a crash. The safest choice for riders is a full-face helmet approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT). For more information on helmet law effectiveness and helmet laws in each state, visit the Community Preventative Task Force and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

3. Ride the Right Motorcycle for You

Your physical characteristics should influence the motorcycle model you ride. Choose a model that's comfortable, easy to get on and off, and not too heavy. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the manual and practice riding on lightly traveled streets before riding on highways.

4. Use a Safe-Riding Strategy

In addition to obeying traffic laws, you should maintain awareness of your traffic environment at all times, follow at a safe distance, communicate with other motorists, and ride defensively.

5. Ride Within Your Limits

Know the limits of your abilities and only ride at speeds and for lengths of time that you can handle. Riding too fast, too long, or riding aggressively can lead to crashes.

6. Ride Sober

Never consume alcohol or drugs when riding, as they weaken the keys to safe motorcycling: intense focus, good decision making, physical coordination, and a sense of balance. In fact, 28 percent of motorcyclists killed in crashes in 2013 were legally drunk; in single vehicle crashes, 40 percent were drunk.

7. Maintain Your Motorcycle

Always inspect your motorcycle before each ride, paying special attention to the condition and inflation pressure of the tires.

For more tips, visit the Motorcycle Safety Guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

5 Ways You Can Prevent Gangrene

Season 2, Episode 6: "United We Stand"

Gangrene occurs when a lack of blood flow and/or a bacterial infection causes body tissue to die. Treatments for all types of gangrene exist, but once tissue has been damaged by gangrene it can't be saved. Luckily, with just a few healthy choices, gangrene is a condition you can prevent.

1. Care for Your Diabetes

Because diabetes affects blood flow, it increases your chances of developing gangrene. If you have diabetes, make sure to examine your hands and feet daily for cuts, sores and signs of infection.

2. Manage Your Weight

Staying at a healthy weight not only helps prevent diabetes, it also helps blood flow. Excess pounds place pressure on your arteries and can even slow wound healing.

3. Don't Use Tobacco

Chronic use of tobacco products can result in damage to your blood vessels.

4. Keep Cuts Clean

Use mild soap and water to wash any open wounds, and keep them clean and dry until they heal.

5. Watch Out When It's Cold

If you notice an area of your skin has become pale, hard, and numb after prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, you might have frostbite and should call your healthcare provider. Frostbitten skin reduces blood circulation and can lead to gangrene. To help with prevention from the harsh effects of the cold, wear protective gear like hats, gloves, mittens, and warm footwear.

For more information on the symptoms, risk factors and prevention of gangrene, visit the Mayo Clinic.

What to Do When Someone Has a Seizure

Season 2, Episode 5: "Guardians of the City"

Seizures can be frightening to experience and to witness, but with a little information, you can provide care, comfort, and protection for someone during a seizure. For a complete guide to responding to all seizure types, see the Epilepsy Foundation's instructions on seizure first aid.

Stay with the Person Until the Seizure Ends

Remaining present and calm can reassure the person during and after the seizure -- and help others react in a calm manner, too.

Pay Attention to the Length of the Seizure

Most seizures only last a few minutes, but some end in just a few seconds. It's important to track how long the active seizure lasts and how long it takes for the person to recover. If the active seizure lasts longer than usual for that person, call for help.

Keep the Area Comfortable

Remove any sharp objects from the area and keep onlookers at a distance. Ideally, help the person sit down in a safe place or, if it's safer for them to lie down, make sure to support their head. If the person is moving, guide them away from dangerous situations like traffic or high places.

Don't Grab or Hold the Person Down

You cannot stop a seizure by stopping the person's movements. Attempting to do so may cause injuries and make the person confused, agitated, or aggressive.

Don't Put Anything in the Person's Mouth

During a seizure, the person's jaw and face muscles may tighten and cause the person to bite down and break and swallow the object or even break their teeth, not to mention injuring your own fingers.

Make Sure Their Breathing Is Okay

If the person is lying down, help them breathe easier by turning them on their side, with their mouth pointed to one side. Sometimes seizures result in vomiting and this positioning may reduce risk of secretions blocking the person’s airway.

Wait Until They're Alert to Give Them Water or Food

The person may not swallow correctly if they're not fully awake, causing food or liquid to go into the lungs instead of the stomach.

Know When to Call for Emergency Medical Help

There are a few instances when you should call for medical help, including if the person asks for it or if the seizure lasts longer than five minutes.

To learn more about seizure diagnosis, treatment, and first aid, visit the Epilepsy Foundation.

4 Simple Steps to Save Your Severed Finger

Season 2, Episode 4: "Fallen Brother"

Although the sight of a severed finger is cause for alarm, it is often possible for hospital doctors to reattach the finger in a surgery called replantation. But before you concern yourself with the detached digit, remember to protect the portion of your hand or finger that is bleeding by affixing a tourniquet. Once the bleeding has stopped, follow these easy steps from emergency room physician Dr. Jan Dauer to ensure your finger's safety and give it the best chance for replantation at the hospital.

Step 1: No Finger Left Behind

Keep the amputated part with you at all times. Patients frequently leave the remainder of the finger at the site of the accident.

Step 2: Keep It Clean

Using only water, rinse the amputated part gently to remove any particulate matter and dirt. Don't scrub or use soap; a good water rinse is all you need.

Step 3: Create a Cooler

Wrap the amputated part in clean gauze and seal in a plastic bag. Then place the bag in a mixture of ice and water to maintain a chilled temperature.

Step 4: Head to the Hospital

With the detached finger in your possession, go to the nearest major hospital that can perform a replantation procedure.

For more information about finger replantation visit the American Society for Surgery of the Hand.

Fact or Fiction?: Learn the Truth About Diabetes and Prediabetes

Season 2, Episode 3: "Trust the Ones You're With"

Diabetes is a serious disease that can lead to major health complications. Armed with the truth, people with prediabetes or diabetes can take steps to be a whole lot healthier.

FACT OR FICTION?: Everyone with prediabetes eventually gets diabetes.

Fiction. Prediabetes often develops into type 2 diabetes, but with modest weight loss (5–7% of body weight) and regular physical activity (30 minutes, 5 days a week) people at risk have a good chance of avoiding the disease.

FACT OR FICTION?: 1 out of 4 people who have diabetes don’t know it.

Fact. That's more than 7 million Americans, and they’re all at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and the other serious health problems that come with diabetes — but they don’t even know they need treatment.

FACT OR FICTION?: All people with diabetes are overweight.

Fiction. Diabetes can affect people regardless of their weight. However, being overweight can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes as well as the severity of other health problems related to diabetes.

FACT OR FICTION?: If you have diabetes, you could go blind. Or lose your feet. Or both.

Fact. Complications from diabetes can lead to vision loss, kidney failure, and hard-to-treat infections that require amputation of toes, feet, or lower legs to keep the infection from spreading. People with diabetes are also twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as people without diabetes, and at an earlier age. Effective management goes a long way in preventing these complications.

FACT OR FICTION?: Only older adults get diabetes.

Fiction. Anyone can get diabetes, but some people are at higher risk than others. Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age, although it most frequently develops in children and teens. Type 2 diabetes — which accounts for 90–95% of all diagnosed cases — can also develop at any age, but rates are highest for adults 60 years or older.

FACT OR FICTION?: Medication is the only way to control diabetes.

Fiction. People with type 1 diabetes take insulin every day to keep their blood sugar in a normal range — they would die without it — and some people with type 2 diabetes need medication. However, others may be able to maintain normal blood sugar without medication by losing weight (and keeping it off), being physically active, and following a healthy eating plan. They still need to work closely with their doctor to make sure they’re on track.

Learn more about what you can do to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

6 Surprising Heart Attack Facts

Season 2, Episode 2: "In the Blink of an Eye"

In the U.S., a heart attack occurs every 43 seconds. But the more you know about heart disease and heart attacks, the more you can reduce your risk for both.

1. Most Heart Attacks Start Slowly

Despite what we often see on TV and film, it's more common for heart attacks to begin with mild pain, slight discomfort or fullness in the center of your chest, rather than a sudden and intense chest pain. In fact, 1 in 5 heart attacks is silent — the damage is done, but the person is not aware of it.

2. You Can Have a Heart Attack Without Chest Pain

Not everyone experiences the same symptoms during a heart attack. Most do experience chest pain or discomfort, but others experience a combination of symptoms, including shortness of breath, discomfort in the upper body, lightheadedness, indigestion, and nausea. For a full list of symptoms and warning signs, visit The American Heart Association's website.

3. You Can Have a Heart Attack Without Symptoms

Two-thirds of the women and half of the men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. Even if you have no symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease. Discover your "heart age" to understand your risk for a heart attack or stroke.

4. Heart Disease Kills More Women Than Men

Approximately one woman dies every minute from heart disease. It's the No. 1 killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. And since 1984, heart disease has killed more women than men.

5. Heart Disease Is the Leading Cause of Death For Men

One in every four male deaths is due to heart disease. Just as worrisome, however, is that when most men experience heart attack symptoms, they wait up to six hours before calling 911.

6. People Wait Too Long to Call 911

"Time is muscle" when it comes to heart attacks, and every minute a heart attack sufferer delays calling 911 their risk of death increases. About half of sudden cardiac deaths happen outside a hospital, meaning that people don't act on early warning signs. People may wait to call for a variety of reasons, but a big one is they don't know the symptoms and don't recognize the urgency. If you think you're suffering from a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Learn more about what you can do to prevent a heart attack.

5 Things You Can Do Right Now for a Healthier Heart

Season 2, Episode 1: "Mardi Gras"

Heart disease is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. for adults of all races. With a few heart-healthy lifestyle choices, people of any age can reduce their risk for heart disease.

1. Eat Healthy Meals

A diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods — and low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium (salt) — can keep your heart healthy and strong.

2. Exercise

Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger, improves blood flow, and helps you maintain a healthy weight.

3. Stop Smoking

Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease and quitting will lower your risk. If you don't smoke, don't start.

4. Limit Alcohol

Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure.

5. Discover If You Are Already at Risk

One way to understand your risk for a heart attack or stroke is to learn your "heart age" — the age of your heart and blood vessels as a result of your risk factors for heart attack and stroke. Conditions that can also increase your risk for heart disease include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes.

For more information about how to identify, treat, and prevent heart disease, visit The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.