Wishes for a Happy and Healthy American Heart Month from Southcoast®!
It’s rather fitting that February – the month we associate with Valentine’s hearts – is also American Heart Month. For 50 years now, February has offered us a chance to reflect on just how much heart disease affects us. This year, like every year, more than half a million Americans will die from heart disease. In fact, heart disease is still the leading cause of death for both men and women in this country.
But American Heart Month can also be a time to reset your heart health priorities and take action. It doesn’t have to be a monumental move – small, positive steps can really add up. Take an extra walk. Get your cholesterol checked. If you haven’t quit smoking yet, try decreasing the amount you smoke by a little each day. Identify one habit that needs changing, and change it… even just a little. If you’re already on top of managing your heart health, take time to support a friend or loved one’s efforts. Give them the benefit of your knowledge and experience.
This American Heart Month, let’s invest (or re-invest) in our hearts. And our lives.
Southcoast wants to help you keep your heart healthy. Check out Your Healthy Heart Blog: Tips and news from Southcoast Health System visit www.southcoastheart.com often for the latest advice and treatments to keep your heart care close to home.
Southcoast Among the First to Offer New, Advanced Treatment Options for Heart Patients
New non-surgical technique prevents clots and is as effective as blood thinners
Believe it or not, your heart has its own appendage of sorts; that is, a part that serves no real purpose but can cause big trouble if something goes wrong. The left atrial appendage (LAA) is a little pouch that empties into the heart’s left atrium, and when everything’s working as it should, that appendage squeezes in rhythm with the rest of the heart, and the blood keeps moving.
However, when an arrhythmia like atrial fibrillation causes the heart to beat irregularly, blood may stagnate in the LAA and form clots, which can lead directly to heart attack or stroke. Usually, patients with atrial fibrillation are required to take blood thinners for the rest of their lives to prevent the formation of such clots. Blood thinners, such as Coumadin, are not easy medications to take and bleeding while on these medications can be quite severe.
LAA Closure is a new option available at Southcoast for patients who are at high risk for stroke and unable to tolerate blood thinners. Recent studies have shown that closing off the LAA entirely replaces the need to take blood thinners, and is as effective in preventing clots.
Our expert cardiologists are some of the few members of their field to have received extensive training in this type of non-surgical procedure, which is often not available at community hospitals like ours.
Southcoast among the first to offer new defibrillator for heart patients
In another example of offering the latest, state-of-the-art technology to its patients, Southcoast has been chosen to receive early delivery of subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillators (S-ICDs) for specific high-risk patients — before this new technology becomes widely available on the market.
Unlike a pacemaker, which can only give low-level electrical pulses to correct certain types of irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, ICDs send high-energy electrical shocks to correct dangerous arrhythmias in the heart’s lower chambers.
Some patients aren’t candidates for traditional ICDs because they’re at high risk for infection, or have limited access to the major veins to the heart. However, an S-ICD is implanted just beneath the skin and does not have the traditional ICD’s lead wires that go directly into the heart. Studies have shown the newer device to be just as effective in controlling irregular heartbeats — without actually touching the heart itself.
In addition to having been chosen to be one of the first heart centers in the U.S. to begin using this device, Southcoast is proud to make known that all of our electrophysiologists are board certified, and our expert physicians have had years of experience with great outcomes for our community, which includes a large number of high-risk patients.
For more information on all the heart care services now available at Southcoast, visit http://www.southcoast.org/heart.
Southcoast Health System Offers Advice on When to Seek Care for Flu-like Symptoms
Flu season is here and it is important to know when to seek treatment for flu-like symptoms.
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral medications. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider (doctor, physician’s assistant, etc.).
Certain people are at greater risk of serious flu-related complications (including young children, elderly persons, pregnant women and people with certain long-term medical conditions). If you are in a high risk group and develop flu symptoms, it’s best for you to contact your doctor and remind them about your high risk status for flu.
Health care providers will determine whether influenza testing and possible treatment are needed. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs that can treat the flu. These drugs work better for treatment the sooner they are started.
Emergency Room Care
The emergency room should be used for people who are very sick. You should not go to the emergency room if you are only mildly ill. If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room. If you get sick with flu symptoms and are at high risk of flu complications or you are concerned about your illness, call your health care provider for advice. If you go to the emergency room and you are not sick with the flu, you may catch it from people who do have it.
Emergency warning signs in children:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
- Unable to eat
- Trouble breathing
- No tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
Emergency warning signs in adults:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Remember: the flu is highly contagious. Most healthy adults carrying the flu virus may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
More information about the flu can be found at www.southcoast.org/flu/.