In 1984, there were more women who died of cardiovascular disease than men. Cardiovascular disease has been the number one killer of American women, more than all cancers put together. Women were being treated differently than men, including hormone replacement therapy for high cholesterol instead of the more effective cholesterol-lowering medications called statins. This resulted in thousands more women dying from cardiovascular disease.
In 2001, the American Heart Association started a campaign to increase awareness about heart disease in women. This campaign was named the Go Red for Women campaign in 2003. Lynne Braun PhD, ANP, and I were involved with the inception of the awareness campaign, and we both continue to be involved with Go Red for Women.
In 2003, the Rush Heart Center for Women opened its doors to prevent and treat heart disease in women. In addition to our services, we also offered complimentary nutrition counseling, which we were able to offer through funding from grateful donors. We wanted to give comprehensive evaluation and compassionate care to prevent devastating cardiac events.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Eggs are high in cholesterol but contain important nutrients.
By Heather Rasmussen
As a registered dietitian in a cardiology clinic, one of the most common questions I get asked relates to dietary cholesterol. Patients either state that they are avoiding dietary cholesterol as they know that it is “bad” for their heart, or they ask if the rumors that has been circulating about the dangers of cholesterol consumption are really true. As a researcher in the field of heart disease, I know the ins and out of cholesterol, and have a variety of responses in my arsenal.
First, it is true that in some people (approximately one-third), dietary cholesterol does increase your own circulating cholesterol. However, it raises both your good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol, so the ratio of the two does not change. Thus, it is thought that because of this simultaneous increase in both HDL and LDL cholesterol, dietary cholesterol does not greatly impact heart disease risk. However, there are a few caveats. One, some research shows that eggs (containing dietary cholesterol) increase risk of heart disease in diabetics. In addition, there is some concern that if we measure our own circulating cholesterol after eating (not fasting as most of how cholesterol is measured), that dietary cholesterol may have a negative impact.
Second in a series of posts recognizing American Heart Month
By Lynne Braun
Have you noticed that people who have a positive attitude and are generally happy are much easier to spend time with? Have you noticed that when you are happy, you accomplish more, things seem to go your way, and you generally feel better?
A couple of recent studies found that people who are happy and optimistic have less heart disease. These were individuals who are generally positive about life and see the glass as half full instead of half empty. In the most recent study, higher levels of life satisfaction were associated with a 13 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease. Satisfaction with one’s job, family, sex and self seemed to be the most important for heart disease protection. Continue reading →