Gill Heart Institute recognized for excellent STEMI care

All heart attacks are serious, but one type – called STEMI — is particularly deadly.

“A STEMI, or ST Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction, means an artery to the heart is 100 percent blocked, which is associated with a much higher short-term risk of death or disability compared to other types of heart attack,” Dr. Adrian Messerli of the UK Gill Heart Institute said.

More than 250,000 Americans suffer a STEMI each year and once heart muscle is damaged it will never grow back.

“That’s why immediate access to treatment for STEMI patients is critical to their recovery,” Messerli said.

The Gill Heart Institute has been recognized by the American Heart Association for its high quality treatment of STEMI patients with a 2016 Mission: Lifeline® Receiving Center BRONZE Recognition Award.

According to the AHA, the Gill is “part of an elite group of hospitals recognized … for quality heart attack care … treating patients according to nationally accepted guidelines.”

The AHA requires award recipients to adhere to rigorous standards including time to treatment of 90 minutes or less, administration of certain medications to reduce the chance of another heart attack, and other counseling such as smoking cessation.

“We have an incredibly talented and hard-working team, including nurses, staff and emergency medical personnel, all of whom contribute to successful patient outcomes,” said Susan Smyth, MD, PhD, Medical Director of the Gill Heart Institute.  “This award justly recognizes their work and ultimately is a reflection of the high standard of care we provide to the communities we serve.”

managing hypertension

Here’s how you can manage high blood pressure

Written by Dr. Khaled Ziada, an interventional cardiologist at the UK Gill Heart & Vascular Institute

Dr. Khaled Ziada, managing hypertension

Dr. Khaled Ziada

What do your arteries have in common with a garden hose? Quite a lot, in fact.

Increasing the pressure in a garden hose (whether by opening your faucet to full force or by plugging the end of the hose opening) can cause it to become rigid or even burst.

Blood in the arteries functions in much the same way. Consistently high blood pressure  also called hypertension  damages the tissues of the artery walls. While it’s fairly easy to replace a garden hose, hypertension can lead to serious medical problems and even death.

Hypertension is a chronic condition in which the systolic blood pressure (the top number in the measurement that your health care provider gives you) exceeds 140 mmHg or diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) exceeds 90 mmHg.

Although it’s normal to experience minor fluctuations throughout the day, one in three Americans experience high levels of blood pressure (exceeding 140/90) even without activity or stress. That can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease and even death. This increased risk is compounded in people with diabetes, high cholesterol or smokers.

Generally, patients with hypertension can help control their high blood pressure by adopting healthy lifestyle habits such as:

  • Losing weight
  • Exercising more
  • Stopping smoking
  • Reducing stress
  • Eating a balanced low-salt diet

When lifestyle changes aren’t adequate, there are numerous drug therapies that can be used separately or in combination to reduce hypertension.

Occasionally, however, some people have what’s called “resistant hypertension,” which despite lifestyle changes and medications cannot be brought under control.

Our research team here at UK HealthCare is exploring a novel approach to treat hypertension by manipulating the sympathetic nervous system signals that contribute to high blood pressure. The sympathetic nervous system regulates the vital functions of the body by connecting the brain to major organs such as the heart, kidneys and blood vessels. If the sympathetic nerves connecting the kidney to the brain are overactive, blood pressure rises.

Our study is exploring the effect of renal denervation, a minimally invasive procedure that may potentially decrease the sensitivity of nerves lining the walls of the kidney arteries, thereby reducing the signals that cause hypertension.

Because it has no direct symptoms, hypertension is known as the “silent killer.” The best first step is to know your blood pressure readings and work with your doctor to control high blood pressure if necessary. If you’ve exhausted all other options, talk with your doctor about clinical trials such as ours, which may be able to help you better control your hypertension.

For more information about this study, call 859-323-5259 or email  h.shinall@uky.edu.

UK HealthCare celebrates 25 years of live-saving heart transplants.

Celebrating 25 years of heart transplants at UK HealthCare

On April 2, 1991, Dr. Michael Sekela performed the first heart transplant in the University of Kentucky’s history.

It’s been 25 years since that first operation, and we’ve been saving lives through heart transplantation ever since. In fact, we now do more than 40 heart transplants each year, and in 2015 we set a single-year record for the most heart transplants at one hospital in Kentucky.

While much has changed since Dr. Sekela’s first transplant, one thing has stayed the same: our commitment to providing the best care for patients with heart failure.

That commitment was on display earlier this week when patients gathered with staff and doctors from the UK Gill Heart Institute and the UK Transplant Center to celebrate 25 years of heart transplants at UK HealthCare.

“It’s so rewarding to see how our program has evolved,” Sekela said at the celebration. “We want to take care of our patients, and that’s always been the driving force of our program.”

Jim Holdiness, who received his new heart on Aug. 24, 1995, said UK HealthCare gave him a second chance at life.

“If hadn’t been for those people, in this hospital, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.

Daniel Garcia received his new heart just earlier this year, but echoed Holdiness’ sentiment.

“I haven’t had this much energy in 25 years,” he said. “When I think of UK, I think of excellence and compassion. Everyone had my well-being in mind.”

Check out some photos from the event below and visit the UK HealthCare Facebook page for a full gallery.


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Tools and resources to help you stop smoking.

Take action to stop smoking

If you’re a smoker, you probably already know it’s not a healthy habit. The benefits of not smoking are vast, but the bottom line is this: if you stop smoking now, you’ll have a better quality of life and more years to live it.

Today is Kick Butts Day, an initiative all about supporting people in their efforts to quit smoking and encouraging others on their path to a tobacco-free lifestyle.

We know that quitting smoking isn’t easy, but we’re here to help. We’ve put together a list of tips and resources that can help you or someone you know start on the path toward success. Check them out and pass them along to family and friends.

    • Learn about smoking-cessation aids. Quitting cold turkey isn’t the best option for everyone, and aids like nicotine patches, nicotine gum and medicines for withdrawal symptoms can help make quitting easier. Find about more about tools for helping you kick your habit.
    • Make it through the hardest part. It’s often said that if you can make it through your first week of not smoking, when withdrawal symptoms are at their worst, you’ll be on your way to success. From establishing new morning routines and daily habits to exercising more, little lifestyle changes can help you get through the toughest part of your journey. Here are a few other tips to making it through your first days and weeks as a nonsmoker.
    • Think about your weight. It’s not uncommon to experience weight gain after you stop smoking. Exercising regularly, eating fewer fatty foods and drinking plenty of water can help you maintain a healthy weight moving forward. Check out more suggestions for staying healthy after you quit smoking.
    • A relapse isn’t the end of the world. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a cigarette after quitting. Relapse is a common occurrence and nothing to be ashamed of. Understanding why you chose to smoke is often the key to preventing it from happening again. Here are some additional tips for how to quit smoking after a relapse.
    • You’ll feel better if you quit. From a healthier heart and lungs to whiter teeth and fewer wrinkles, you’ll reap major health benefits when you stop smoking. Check out our infographic for more reasons why kicking your habit is the way to go.


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Celebrate International Women's Day with UK HealthCare's health tips.

Women, take charge of your health

In our society, women often care for everyone else – parents, spouses, children – first and neglect themselves. Looking after yourself isn’t selfish – it’s the best way to keep on doing what you do for those around you.

In honor of International Women’s Day today, check out our list of tips that will help you be your healthiest:

  • Understand recommended cancer screenings for your age. Breast, skin, lung and gynecologic cancers are some of most common types affecting women, and regular screening can help catch the disease when it’s most treatable. Check out the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for early cancer screening.
  • Get the HPV vaccine. If you’re 26 or younger, ask your doctor about getting an HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of human papilloma virus that most typically cause cervical cancer.
  • Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor for cancer and heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women in America.
  • Listen to your heart. Women’s hearts are different from men’s in certain ways, which can affect the way women develop heart disease and experience heart attacks. Check out the top 10 things to know about women’s heart health from Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of the UK Gill Heart Institute Women’s Heart Health Program.
  • Protect your skin by using sunscreen and avoiding indoor tanning. Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds can cause melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
  • Stay active. Regular exercise, along with a healthy diet, can lower your risk for several types of cancer and reduce your risk for heart disease. Being overweight can increase your risk of a heart attack and other heart complications.
  • Think about your mental health, too. Some mental illnesses are more common in women or affect women in different ways than men. Conditions such as anxiety, eating disorders and postpartum depression can significantly impact your life. The National Institute of Mental Health has more information specifically for women, but simple things like staying in touch with family and friends, exercising, and getting good sleep can boost your mental health. If you’re unable to shake your symptoms or they keep coming back, talk with your doctor.
  • Be a role model for health. Make sure you’re setting good examples for the girls and young women in your life. Practice healthy eating habits at home and encourage exercise. Encourage the teenage girls in your life to get the HPV vaccination. And for teenage girls especially, emotional support is important. Be available to talk with young women in your life who may be experiencing increased anxiety or depression as they undergo a time of physical and personal growth.

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Valentine's Day health tips from UK HealthCare

Make Valentine’s Day a healthy holiday

Valentine’s Day is Sunday, and whether you’re spending time with your loved one, your closest friends or by yourself, we have a few tips and fun facts to help make the day happy and healthy.

Skip the restaurant, cook at home

Instead of making reservations at a restaurant, consider cooking Valentine’s Day dinner at home this year. Not only will you save money, but chances are you’ll eat healthier, too. Cooking at home allows you to limit how much unhealthy stuff (like sugar, salt and fat) ends up in your food, and gives you a fun activity you can do no matter who you’re with.

Not only is Valentine’s Day this weekend, February is also American Heart Month and a great time to practice heart-healthy cooking at home. Check out our list of heart-healthy recipes.

Treat yourself

Nothing says Valentine’s Day like chocolate, and the good news is there is a healthy way to indulge. Research has shown that eating chocolate in moderation might lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Consider picking dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate, too. Dark chocolate is thought to be rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant that has been shown to improve blood pressure and blood flow as well as prevent blood clots and cell damage.

The benefits of love

Here’s an added bonus for those spending the holiday with someone special: research suggests being in love has a variety of health benefits for both men and women. One major survey found that married men were healthier than unmarried men, and another found that women experience an uptick in emotional health when living with someone else or getting married.

Single and happy

No date for Valentine’s Day? No problem. Another study suggests that with the right attitude, single people are just as happy as their peers who are in romantic relationships.


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Dr. Gretchen Wells talks about why awareness is so important to women’s heart health

Dr. Gretchen Wells

Dr. Gretchen Wells

Are you ready to support women’s heart health? The truth is that heart disease is a major killer of women, and some of the reason for that is women’s symptoms are different from men’s — and often go unrecognized until it’s too late, which is why raising awareness is so critical.

Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of the Gill Heart & Vascular Institute’s Women’s Heart Health Program, took time to answer some of our questions on women’s heart health.

Why is it important to raise awareness about women’s heart health?

People assume all heart attacks feel like a crushing in the chest, but often, and for women in particular, the symptoms of a heart attack can be quite different. More women are aware of this now than they were 20 years ago, but that’s still not good enough. So it’s important we take the opportunity to teach women what to look for and how to take the best care of your heart.

Why is it important for a place like Gill to have a specialized heart health program for women?

We’re the leaders in up-to-date diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Each year, we have new technologies that expand our abilities to prevent and treat heart disease. We also offer leading-edge research and patients can participate in trials. All of us here come to work in the morning asking “How can I push the envelope and do better?”

What are the most common concerns you hear from patients in your program?

I just had this insight this week. Many women bring their daughters to clinic. I always thought that it was for the patient to have a support person, a ride, or maybe someone to take notes. But just yesterday, I had a patient with her daughter. After the visit, as we were closing, the patient said “I don’t want my daughter to have the heart problems that I did. I want her to know her risks and get treated early. All of this is preventable.” What great insight – and a sign of motherly love.

What led you to specialize in women’s heart health?

I didn’t start out doing this, but women gravitated towards me. Several trials evaluating women’s heart disease symptoms and prevention came out, and they raised some thought-provoking questions in my mind as to how to treat women. More importantly, I saw how these women presented differently from men. My first reaction was “we need to study this.” And then family members started having cardiac events, so it became personal.


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Tips for shoveling snow safely

Think about your heart before you shovel

The combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion may increase the risk of a heart attack during snow shoveling.

To help keep you safe and minimize risk, we recommend the following precautions:

  • Individuals over the age of 55, or those who are relatively inactive, should be especially careful.
  • If you have heart trouble, do not shovel without a doctor’s permission.
  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.
  • Pace yourself. Be sure to stretch out and warm up just like you would before any exercise.
  • Push the snow as you shovel, do not pick up too much at once. Lift with your legs bent, not your back.
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion. If you run out of breath, take a break.

Also, it’s important to know the warnings signs of heart attack. Often people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. If you experience any of the warning signs below, please contact emergency medical services immediately.

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Like men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

 

Gluten intolerance requires a significant change in your diet, but doing research and asking questions can help you stay gluten-free while dining out.

11 diabetes-friendly cooking tips

November is American Diabetes Month and a great time to learn more about the disease that affects more than 500,000 Kentuckians.

If you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, a healthy diet is crucial in properly managing your symptoms. Eating well can help you stay at a desirable weight, control your blood pressure, and prevent heart disease and stroke.

Here are 11 cooking tips for healthy diabetes management:

  1. Use nonstick cooking spray instead of oil, shortening, or butter.
  2. If you do use oil, use olive, corn, peanut, sunflower, safflower, vegetable or flaxseed oil.
  3. Season foods, like meats and steamed vegetables with herbs and spices (like pepper, cinnamon, and oregano), vinegar, lemon juice or salsa instead of salt, butter or sugary sauces.
  4. Use low- or no-sugar jams instead of butter or margarine on breads.
  5. Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Try to get at least two servings a week of omega-3 rich foods, like salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, rainbow trout and albacore tuna. Walnuts, flaxseed and soy products are other omega-3 rich foods that can be added to a healthy diet.
  6. Eat whole-grain, high-fiber cereals or oatmeal with skim or 1-percent milk.
  7. Use low-fat or fat-free dairy products like milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and sour cream in place of full-fat versions.
  8. Drink 100 percent fruit juice that has no added sugar and limit your serving size.
  9. Trim excess fat off meats and eat chicken or turkey without the skin.
  10. Always buy lean cuts of meat and choose a healthy cooking method, like broiling, roasting, stir-frying or grilling.
  11. Buy whole-grain breads and cereals instead of processed, refined grains like white flour.

We’ve also compiled a list of 41 diabetes-friendly recipes. Check it out!

Support the American Diabetes Association

UK HealthCare Chief Administrative Officer Ann Smith and 10 other Lexington-area community members are campaigning to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association’s Kiss a Pig event.

Discovered in 1921, insulin was originally derived from the pancreas of pigs and is a vital tool in the treatment and care of people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association honors the pig for saving millions of lives.

The fundraising candidate who raises the most money has the honor of kissing Dolly, a 5-week-old piglet, at the Kiss a Pig Gala.

Every dollar raised helps the ADA provide diabetes advocacy, education programs, research and outreach support for the people of Kentucky. To donate to Ann’s campaign, visit www.diabetes.org/kissapigann.

Gardner and Jon Wes Adams

Gill Heart Institute saves 27-year-old identical twins

Jon Wes and Gardner Adams share a lot. Both have a profound love for baseball. Both are in phenomenal physical condition. And as identical twins, they share the same genetic profile.

The Adams twins, now 27, began playing baseball almost before they could read.  Both were offered scholarships to Asbury University. Gardner was drafted by the Braves. Their work ethic was a big factor in their success on the diamond, running 25-30 miles a week, regardless of weather, each pushing the other to achieve.

It was that closeness — and their shared genes — that ultimately saved both their lives.

In June 2014, as Jon Wes was running in the Lexington Arboretum, his heart suddenly stopped beating.  He collapsed near a concert, and audience members performed CPR for almost 20 minutes until emergency crews arrived to transport him to UK HealthCare. Doctors there told his frantic family that Jon Wes had about a 30 percent chance of survival.

But Jon Wes is a fighter. After several days in a medically induced coma, he began to wake up. Now the real work fell to Gill Heart Institute cardiologists Dr. Samy-Claude Elayi and Dr. Alison Bailey, who needed to figure out why a physically fit 26-year old would have sudden cardiac death. And after some sleuthing, they had their answer: Brugada Syndrome.

According to Elayi, Brugada is a fairly rare diagnosis, affecting only about one in 1,000 people, typically of Asian descent. It can cause dangerous arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, which in extreme cases can cause sudden cardiac death.

An implantable defibrillator — a tiny version of the paddles that doctors use to shock people back to life in medical television dramas — monitors arrhythmias and delivers a shock to the heart whenever one occurs. Jon Wes was implanted with an ICD in late June and was cleared to resume exercising shortly afterward.

In the meantime, Drs. Elayi and Bailey took note that Jon Wes had a twin — an identical twin. Gardner was put through the same paces.  While the ECG was inconclusive for Brugada, the genetic tests indicated he had Brugada as well. Gardner and his family agreed with the Gill team’s recommendation, and on Aug. 29, 2014 — six days after his 26th birthday — Gardner was implanted with an ICD.  His first words out of surgery: “Look Mom, we’re identical again.”

Fourteen months after Jon Wes collapsed, and almost exactly a year after Gardner received his ICD, a short run revealed just how sound that decision was.

Gardner and his wife, Mary Ann, went to a local park in Anderson County, where they now live, to get some exercise and fresh air.  Elayi had warned the twins never to run alone, so the plan was for Gardner to run one direction around the circle while Mary Ann walked in the opposite direction. Just four minutes in, however, Gardner knew something was very wrong.

“I was dizzy and short of breath,” Gardner said.  “The next thing I knew, I woke up face down on the pavement.”

Within a minute Mary Ann appeared on the path and immediately drove him to UK Chandler Hospital.  There they learned the incredible news: during Gardner’s run, his heart had stopped.  The ICD had shocked his heart back to life.

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