WILL PINKSTON | The Sun
Shakira Bell, a registered nurse at Western Baptist Hospital, monitors an electrocardiogram for Robert Wilkins of Symsonia during a free heart health screening at Kentucky Oaks Mall on Monday. Health screenings such as this Local 6 Healthy Heart Health Fair promote heart awareness throughout the course of Heart Health Month.
With a new level of certification, Dr. Nathaniel Dittoe brings an extra bit of cardiac experience to Murray-Calloway County Hospital, and fittingly so, as Heart Health Awareness Month is in full swing with hospitals across the area.
Already boarded in echocardiography — the use of ultrasound to image the heart — Dittoe is now double-boarded in cardiology, as well, after receiving certification by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Though already approved to practice in the field, the board certification adds an extra layer of patient confidence, Dittoe said.
And that extra trust pays dividends when dealing with heart disease. Dittoe has recently begun offering radial heart catheterizations, which allow him a less invasive surgical approach to heart catheterizations through the wrist, as opposed to the traditional technique through the leg.
“The stent goes through the wrist, so in theory patients can walk around afterwards, as opposed to the traditional process that would have patients recovering a bit longer,” Dittoe said. “There’s less chance of complications and though it takes a little more finesse, it’s well worth it from my patient’s standpoint.”
At Lourdes hospital in Paducah, Dr. James O’Rourke and Dr. Omid Javadi provide a new minimally invasive cardiac surgery technique that also drastically shortens an average hospital stay for open heart surgery patients. The MICS procedure can be used as an approach to valve repair and replacement, coronary artery bypass graft and treatment of atrial fibrillation.
“This procedure does not require the opening of the sternum so we can do this procedure through a smaller incision in the side of the chest,” Javadi said. A traditional sternotomy requires a 6- to 8-inch incision to reach the heart, though the MICS procedure requires an incision of only about 3 inches.
Although these procedures are increasingly gaining popularity with patients afflicted with cardiovascular disease — one of the leading causes of death worldwide — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, said Dr. Patrick Withrow, cardiologist and chief medical officer of Western Baptist Hospital.
“It is important for people to realize that the most important factor in a person’s health is that person or patient,” Withrow said. “Personal responsibility goes a long way.”
Withrow, Javadi and Dittoe all provided simple guidelines to promote a healthy heart: avoid cigarettes, increase exercise and maintain a healthy diet.
“Smoking is the absolute worst thing you can do for your heart because it does increase your risk for heart disease by a large percentage,” Dittoe said.
Cardiovascular fitness for about an hour a day, three times a week, is enough to keep you heart healthy, though the more exercise the better. Eating at least five fruits and vegetables a day not only fills your body with much needed nutrients, but fills the stomach and discourages people from eating less-healthier foods.
“Typically, even if someone doesn’t have a lot of risk factors for heart disease, it’s been shown that exercise and diet can lead to decreasing even some forms of cancer,” Withrow said.
Recognizing high blood pressure and cholesterol levels early, then maintaining those levels with prescription medications are helping to bring down the numbers of heart attacks. Throughout Heart Health Month, area hospitals and businesses have hosted free heart health fairs to promote community awareness.
Lourdes hospital kicked off the month with a free blood pressure screening of more than 100 McCracken County employees at the courthouse, jail and transportation offices, while also offering free health screenings of five elementary schools through the Lourdes Kids Cardiac Academy.
Western Baptist Hospital offered several screenings throughout the month, culminating with its Heart Health Fair from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 25, in the atrium of Doctor’s Office Building 2. Hospital staff will provide free blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and EKG rhythm strip screenings, and provide heart-healthy information.
“When folks come in and look at the activities and the services available it raises their awareness level,” Withrow said.
Call Will Pinkston, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.