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Hot topics in heart disease prevention and treatment

University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center experts available to discuss strategies for improving heart health, quality of patients' lives

Doctors at the U-M Cardiovascular Center implanted
a left ventricle assist device that pumps blood for
Michigan mom Lavisha McDonald, center, in a way
her failing heart no longer can.  

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - From prevention to treatment, cardiovascular medicine is changing rapidly.

During Heart Disease Awareness Month, experts at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center are available to discuss new strategies for improving patient care and the quality of patients’ lives as they combat heart disease, the nation's leading cause of death.

From high blood pressure, childhood obesity, heart valve disease and arrhythmias to sudden death among athletes, here are some buzz-worthy topics in heart health: 

Heart device use on the rise
LaVisha McDonald walks two to three miles every other day and not many people on a heart transplant list can say that. “Most people waiting for transplant surgery … Their life is on hold. My doctor told me to go live,” says McDonald, a mother of six who has no time for a hospital bed. Doctors at the U-M Cardiovascular Center implanted a left ventricle assist device that pumps blood for her in a way her failing heart no longer can. With the number of donor hearts remaining stable, increasingly heart patients nationwide are living normal lives with the help of heart devices. The U-M Center for Circulatory Support is also leading a study to examine earlier device use for heart failure patients.

Sudden cardiac death among athletes
Every year, we hear about deaths among young athletes on the sports field or on the court. Sudden cardiac death in young athletes is often caused by an underlying heart disease such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is inherited from one generation to the next. Simply improving pre-participation screening and conducting electrocardiograms on properly selected children may help reduce cardiac deaths. To learn more about sudden cardiac death and how the U-M helped save a young soccer player’s life go to: http://www.uofmhealth.org/medical-services/heart-and-vascular

Five simple rules to fight childhood obesity
Reaching five simple goals – make better beverage choices, be active, eat fewer fast and fatty foods, spend less time in front of a screen -- could change a generation’s health. Project Healthy Schools, founded by researchers at the U-M CVC, teaches sixth graders habits to prevent childhood obesity and its long-term health risks such as diabetes and heart disease. PHS is one of the few school programs in the nation to prove it gets children in better shape by lowering their cholesterol and blood pressure.

Steadying an irregular heartbeat
Each year thousands of children and adults from Michigan and across the country come to the University of Michigan’s Cardiovascular Center and Congenital Heart Center for treatment of heart rhythm defects called arrhythmias. Now, the U-M's prominence in this field will grow, with the recruitment of a dozen new heart rhythm researchers. By April, the Center for Arrthymia Research will include 85 people, all collaborating with U-M doctors to turn their research findings into better care for patients.

High-risk aortic patients have new options
Physicians have new options for treating high-risk patients with severe aortic stenosis. Select U.S. hospitals are now performing minimally invasive procedures called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, to replace a patient’s diseased aortic valve without open heart surgery. U-M surgeons and interventional cardiologists are working together to offer the new FDA-approved Edwards SAPIEN Heart Valve and through a clinical trial, Medtronic’s CoreValve prosthesis.

New coverage for cardiovascular prevention screening
Medicare will now completely cover one face-to-face visit each year to talk to a primary care provider about the best ways to help prevent cardiovascular disease. The visit’s focus is on the "ABCS": aspirin for people at risk, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, and smoking cessation. It’s part of the federal Million Hearts initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Cardiovascular disease prevention experts can provide guidance on keeping hearts well.

Women’s heart health
More women die from cardiovascular disease than men, and that's been true in the U.S. since 1984. Research, like that the U-M, is revealing why heart disease is more dangerous for women. The National Institutes of Health recommended creating female specific cardiac clinics, and the University of Michigan received one of the initial grants to start the Women’s Heart Program. Five years later, our program is one of only a few in the country to offer the full scope of cardiac treatment specifically for women.

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