Prevention is key to beating heart disease,

Prevention, detection and interventi­on are the keys to beating heart disease

- BY KAREN CAFFARINI Correspond­ent

A t Porter Regional Hospital’s Center for Cardiovasc­ular Medicine in northwest Indiana, the goal is not only to successful­ly treat heart disease but to help prevent it.

“We’re working on more of a disease management strategy as opposed to acute care,” said Terri Gingerich, Cardiovasc­ular Service Line director at the Valparaiso hospital.

She said the center’s team of cardiologi­sts, cardiovasc­ular surgeons and interventi­onal radiologis­ts work to keep patients healthy through prevention and early detection, as well as medication­s and surgery if needed.

She said heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States and incidents of heart disease are increasing, largely due to an aging population, obesity and the sour economy.

“As a nation, our work stress level is high. The economy has played a big role, too,” Gingerich said.

Smoking, bad dietary habits and family history of heart disease are also factors, she said.

She said early signs or symptoms of heart failure often go unnoticed or ignored. In some instances, especially hypertensi­on, a lot of damage can be done over time if left untreated, Gingerich said.

“The sooner you can get early stages of heart failure detected and treated the better,” Gingerich said. “It’s better to keep you healthy upfront.”

She said any time there is a change in an individual’s normal state of health, they need to start looking at the cause.

Gingerich said the center utilizes social media and the Internet to make informatio­n readily available on what people can do to prevent heart disease, such as eating a healthier diet, exercising and quitting smoking.

“Any form of regular exercise will help. It doesn’t mean you’re going to boot camp every day. As for a diet, you should cut down on cholestero­l and f ats and practice moderation,” Gingerich said.

She explained that when an individual carries around a lot of weight, it puts extra work on the heart. If the individual loses weight, it will slow the progressio­n of the heart problem and significan­tly reduce the risk of more serious heart disease.

Health screenings are also an important part of prevention, as are routine physicals and regular visits to a primary care doctor, where early symptoms can be detected and patients can get the care they need.

She said individual­s with a f amily history of heart disease, stressful job or poor eating habits should especially be sure to get screenings and visit their doctor regularly.

Gingerich said Porter Regional Hospital offers an $85 cardiac head-to-toe screening, for example, that includes lab work, which screens for cardiac markers, and ultrasound, which screens for carotid arteries.

The screening, one of many available, also looks at a person’s circulatio­n and aorta, she said.

Porter Regional Hospital also has several technologi­es that can diagnose potential heart problems.

An echocardio­gram — A noninvasiv­e procedure used to assess the heart’s structure and function. It can detect coronary heart disease, congenital heart disease, aneurysm and cardiomyop­athy.

3-D TEE — A new tool that provides accurate, real-time images of the heart from every angle so cardiologi­sts can visualize any leaks.

Holter Monitoring — This allows the physician to capture any abnormal heartbeats or rhythms that may be causing fainting, dizziness, low blood pressure, fatigue and palpitatio­ns, especially if they occur frequently.

Tilt Table — This procedure evaluates an individual with symptoms of fainting.

The hospital also conducts some educationa­l events in the communitie­s in which it serves on how to stay healthy.

“We’ve come a long way in treating heart disease, but we still have a huge way to go,” Gingerich said.

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| PHOTO ?? Testing the ticker: A patient takes a stress test at the Center for Cardiovasc­ular Medicine at Porter Regional Hospital.
COURTESY OF PORTER REGIONAL HOSPITAL | PHOTO Testing the ticker: A patient takes a stress test at the Center for Cardiovasc­ular Medicine at Porter Regional Hospital.

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