How the latest in care and prevention can reduce the incidence and impact of heart disease Featured

4:53pm EDT February 21, 2011
Gabriel Vorobiof, M.D., Medical Director, Non-Invasive Cardiology, Imaging & Heart Failure, Long Beach Memorial Gabriel Vorobiof, M.D., Medical Director, Non-Invasive Cardiology, Imaging & Heart Failure, Long Beach Memorial

Treatment of heart disease is making substantial strides. Thanks to medical advances, two-thirds of adults survive heart attacks; and every child with congenital heart disease has potential to live a long, normal, productive life. However, challenges persist in convincing people to adopt common sense approaches to heart health.

Smart Business turned to national experts Gabriel Vorobiof, M.D., medical director of Non-Invasive Cardiology, Imaging and Heart Failure at the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Richard Swensson, M.D., medical director of Pediatric Cardiology at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach.

Is heart disease gender or age specific?

Heart diseases can arise from two main causes — those that are acquired (coronary heart disease, valvular disease, congestive heart failure) and those that are congenital (structural problems acquired prior to birth). Heart disease, therefore, can really be thought of as an equal-opportunity condition. Acquired cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, responsible for more deaths than all forms of cancer, chronic lung disease, pneumonia, diabetes and accidents combined.

In adults, death rates from cardiovascular causes declined 27 percent just in the last decade, largely a testament to improvement in detection and treatment of a variety of cardiovascular conditions. Congenital heart disease affects one of every 100 babies and, if it is left untreated, complications may develop, which can be difficult to reverse as they reach adulthood.

How do heart attack symptoms differ between men and women?

Most Americans do recognize chest pain as a symptom of a heart attack, the most visible symptom of heart disease, but in a national study, only 27 percent were aware of major symptoms. While men report crushing chest pain — like an elephant sitting on their chest — for many women, symptoms may be more subtle, and they may not realize they’re in danger. Women may experience nausea, dizziness, uncomfortable pressure, tightness or heaviness in the chest that doesn’t go away quickly; cold sweats or pounding heart; pain that radiates up the shoulders or neck or down the arms or back; difficulty with breathing; and/or shortness of breath.

Can the risks be minimized?

The dangerous coronary artery plaque deposits typically start building in youngsters and teens. Help children get a healthy start by changing or controlling the risk factors leading to heart disease as adults. Set an example. Eat foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fats. Exercise, reducing stress, regular checkups, screenings, following your doctor’s advice and not smoking reduce risks. Elevated cholesterol earlier in life can lead to long-term damage, so monitor cholesterol and blood pressure levels of all family members.

What expertise is available locally?

MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Long Beach Memorial, acclaimed leader in cardiovascular care and research, rates among the top 3 percent nationally and 1 percent statewide for heart attack survival and pioneering diagnostic tests and treatments. We’re home to a new generation of cardiac imaging that yields information about the heart we never dreamed possible before — all without incisions or other invasive means. We can identify a wide range of heart problems safely, quickly and accurately so patients receive timely and effective care. We perform the most robotic heart surgeries in the West using Da Vinci robot technology that offers minimally invasive capabilities with greater surgical benefits. We’re the West’s only hospital successfully implanting a heart detection device in heart attack survivors. With 35 percent of female and 20 percent of male survivors at danger of a second heart attack occurring within the first year, the device helps reduce time getting to the ER by monitoring and analyzing a patient’s heart data from within their hearts.

The Miller Children’s Pediatric Cardiac Center and Fetal Heart Program provide total prenatal, infant, pediatric and young adult heart care for patients with congenital or acquired heart disease or who have a family history of heart problems. The board-certified pediatric cardiologists that are in the hospital 24/7 are supported by a pediatric cardiac team, providing comprehensive care, from diagnoses, treatments and surgeries to extensive post-operative, follow-up and preventive care. Hospital and satellite Cardiology Outpatient Pediatric Specialty Centers provide extensive evaluation and management of children with a wide range of heart disease. With advanced minimally invasive interventions, such as interventional cardiac catheterization and robotic heart surgery, Miller Children’s is among the state’s most advanced pediatric heart centers.

How can businesses create a more heart healthy workplace?

Healthier employees are typically more productive and happier. Encourage taking stairs instead of the elevator; offer walking programs at breaks. Engage employees’ families in prevention to extend healthy habits at home. Partner with hospitals on worksite wellness and screenings.

Visit www.memorialcare.org/heart for heart guides, health tools and calculators that help with evaluating risks for many diseases.

Gabriel Vorobiof, M.D., is medical director of Non-Invasive Cardiology, Imaging and Heart Failure at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

Richard Swensson, M.D., is medical director of Pediatric Cardiology at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach. The not-for-profit MemorialCare Health System includes Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. For additional information on excellence in health care, please visit www.memorialcare.org.