By Lynne T. Braun, PhD, CNP
Many people who own pets treat them like family members. Pets are thought to provide joy, comfort and stress relief, alleviate sadness, and give their owners unconditional love. Some hospitals, including Rush University Medical Center, allow family pets to visit their hospitalized owners if certain requirements are met.
Teams of specially trained “comfort dogs” visited and provided comfort to the survivors of the Oklahoma tornadoes, Boston marathon bombings and Sandy Hill school shootings. But what do we know about pets and the health of their owners? In particular, does pet ownership promote heart health?
The answer is probably yes. The American Heart Association recently published a scientific statement on pet ownership and risk for cardiovascular disease. This statement reviewed the results of research on pet ownership and high blood pressure, cholesterol, physical activity, obesity and even survival. Although some studies are conflicting, most show the following:
By Melissa Tracy, MD
Women tend to not only take on their own stress, but also that of their families. This compounds the potential health hazards that include both psychological and physical issues.
Women tend to use food to suppress the impact of stress, resulting in increased weight and decreased exercise. When our weight increases and we have decreased exercise tolerance, the health-related heart risk factors can develop or worsen: Our blood pressure increases, cholesterol increases and the risk of developing diabetes increases.
Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are the leading risk factors for developing heart and cerebral vascular disease, such as a heart attack and stroke. Women of all ages are at risk, even those who still have not undergone menopause. If a woman is postmenopausal, then her risk is greater.
By Craig Falkenthal
Knowing my family history with heart disease allowed me to take control of my health. At my annual physical two years ago, I told my doctor about my 81-year-old mother’s recent aortic valve replacement. I explained that she had a congenital aortic bicuspid valve, and I have aunts and uncles who had mitral valve prolapse issues. I already knew I had a heart murmur, but my doctor suggested that I see a cardiologist to rule out any additional issues, given my family history.
I am an extremely healthy guy with a lot of energy. I had worked for the same employer for 23 years and never took a sick day. So I wasn’t too worried about getting checked out.
However, an echocardiogram showed that I had a congenital bicuspid aortic valve, just like my mother. It was a complete shock, especially because I felt terrific. My local cardiologist said that mine had progressed into aortic stenosis, where my aortic valve was not fully opening and was decreasing blood flow from my heart. She told me that open heart surgery was a matter of when not if.
By Jeffrey Snell, MD
Many patients leave a lasting impression on me, but there are two patients in particular who really inspire me. It’s a husband and wife: He’s 91 years old, and she’s 89.
Even though they’re at an age when a lot of people are unable to live independently, they’re still living at home. They basically take care of themselves. They’re still mentally sound, and even though they need walkers, they’re able to get out and get around. They go grocery shopping together. She still cooks dinner every night, and he does the dishes.
It’s something you don’t see very often. Thanks to modern medicine, people are living longer, but a great many of my older patients are in nursing homes or are dependent on their children because their age or illnesses have left them unable to fully care for themselves.
Chicago’s first electrocardiograph was installed 100 years ago at Presbyterian Hospital, which later became part of Rush University Medical Center.
Renowned heart specialist and Rush Medical College graduate James B. Herrick, MD, was instrumental in securing the equipment through a gift from Mrs. Cyrus McCormick, Sr., a noted Chicago philanthropist.
She also helped the hospital acquire an improved model in 1915 and provided substantial funding for research in heart disease.
According to the 1939 issue of the Presbyterian Hospital Bulletin, “It was with the aid of these instruments that Dr. Herrick made his first notable discoveries about coronary thrombosis and started on the trail which has brought fame to himself and immeasurable benefit to humanity.”
Electrocardiography measures the heart’s electrical activity and helps detect abnormalities.
Nurses at Rush mark National Wear Red Day to focus attention on the fight against heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women. (Photo by Lauren Anderson, Rush Photo Group)
Every day clinicians and patients at Rush face moments of great challenge and great inspiration. During this time of giving thanks, they’re sharing what they are thankful for and how their experiences at Rush have inspired them.
Gary Schaer, MD
By Gary Schaer, MD
Heart disease is not a death sentence. Even if you’ve survived a heart attack, proper medical therapy and lifestyle modifications can allow you to have an excellent quality of life — and a long life. Surviving a heart attack can be a second chance.
Recently, I cared for a previously healthy, 42-year-old firefighter who came in after having a cardiac arrest in the field. His fellow firefighters brought him to Rush University Medical Center, and he arrested again upon his arrival. He was having a heart attack and we took him directly to the cardiac catheterization lab to fix a severely blocked artery.
When I came out of the cath lab to tell his wife that he was going to be fine, there were at least 20 firefighters and police officers waiting outside. I’d never seen anything like it. I walked through the parting huddle of police officers and firefighters all looking very grim, and they pointed me to his wife, who was stricken and expecting the worst. When I said he would be fine, she hugged me and the firefighters introduced me to his young son. It was wonderful to be able to deliver good news about a young guy with so much potential, so much life ahead of him and so many people caring and depending on him. I was pretty choked up by the whole thing.