Eighty-seven-year-old shares her experience with peripheral arterial disease

Maxine Kilkoin is walking proud

Maxine Kilkoin blog

Despite PAD, Maxine Kilkoin enjoys the simple things in life, like spending time with her granddaughter.

An artificial limb hasn’t slowed Maxine Kilkoin down. In fact, she’s doing more today than ever, thanks to the treatment she received at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. The 87-year-old says the doctors at U-M helped her keep her leg for five years after her prior physician recommended it be removed due to peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

PAD is a condition, or set of conditions, caused by the blockage or narrowing of the body’s large peripheral arteries. Lack of proper blood flow to the legs is very common in this condition. An estimated one in 20 Americans over the age of 50 has PAD and between 12 and 20 percent of Americans age 65 and older suffers from the disease. Continue reading

Dental health and your heart

Safe heart surgery requires a healthy mouth

heart and dental health 320x320

Most heart surgery patients need to have dental clearance before surgery to prevent bacteria from traveling from the mouth to the bloodstream, which can compromise his or her health.

Healthy teeth and gums are important for reasons other than your smile. Many people who are in need of surgery — and heart surgery, in particular — might have to delay a surgical procedure for weeks, or even months, depending on their dental health. Because dental health and your heart go hand in hand, most cases involving heart surgery require a patient to have dental clearance before surgery.

That’s because bacteria present in the mouth can travel to the bloodstream and compromise an individual’s health. It’s important that a patient be free of any acute infection, including gum disease (gingivitis in its early stages and periodontal disease in later stages), bleeding of the gums, tooth abscess or any soreness in the mouth. Continue reading

Five tips to help control holiday food cravings

Don’t sabotage your diet this holiday season

holiday 320x320Splurging on your favorite foods is part of the holiday program, right? Well, to an extent. Here are five tips to help control your holiday cravings and reduce the likelihood of overeating at your next soirée.

  1. Eat slowly and select three healthy food items (vegetables, fruits, high-fiber dishes) before digging into a comfort food. I call this the “3-to-1” strategy.
  2. Don’t starve yourself or skip a meal in preparation for a party that night. You’ll be more likely to overeat.
  3. Learn to recognize your hunger level, with 1 being extremely hungry and 10 being beyond full. The goal is to stop eating when you’ve reached a level of 6.
  4. Find an alternative to eating, such as exercising, connecting with friends or taking a warm bath.
  5. Get your sleep. When you’re tired, you have less resolve. I tell my patients to be aware of “HALT” feelings that often lead to overeating, which include times when you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.

Pay attention. Eat mindfully. And stop before you’re completely full. There are a lot of temptations this time of year: appetizers, dinner rolls, alcohol, rich entrées, dessert, eggnog. Choose one or two of those foods or drinks to indulge in during your special occasion. And remember, “You just can’t have it all!”

SusanRyskampSusan Ryskamp, MS, RDN, is a senior dietitian and cardiovascular nutritionist with the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. She is also a trained health coach in behavior change, including stress management and quitting smoking. She is currently working toward certification in Functional Medical Nutrition Therapy. She provides individualized, patient-centered nutrition care plans to help people reduce disease risk to restore and maintain optimal health.


Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.

Heart-healthy holiday drinking

Moderation the key to safe celebrations

xmas drinking blog

Alcohol goes hand-in-hand with holiday cheer, but it also affects the vascular system by dilating the blood vessels, leading to dizziness. Drinking in moderation helps keep you and your heart healthy.

You’re out with friends enjoying a few holiday cocktails when you suddenly feel lightheaded and need to sit down. You might not realize it, but you’re experiencing the effects of alcohol on your vascular system.

In addition to being a depressant, alcohol dilates the blood vessels. So, when you’re standing at a party or social setting, blood often pools in the vessels in your feet instead of being pumped back to the heart.

The result can be feelings of lightheadedness, nausea and over-heating (known as pre-syncope), which are exacerbated by alcohol. To prevent these symptoms, minimize alcohol intake and move around to encourage blood flow to the heart, thus reducing your chances of passing out entirely.

Continue reading

Ascending aortic aneurysm patient is back to living

Two-time survivor shares her story and artwork

Lori Eslick blog

Lori Eslick enjoys plein air (open air) painting.

Lori Eslick had her first aortic root aneurysm repair in 2009 at age 49. As a regular runner and active mom, she had no symptoms related to the ascending aortic aneurysm that was growing. Her heart issues began as a newborn when she was diagnosed with a heart murmur and bicuspid aortic valve (a congenital abnormality).

When she became pregnant at age 39, a preventive EKG revealed no additional heart concerns. Then, 10 years later, another routine EKG ordered by Lori’s new general physician detected a problem that ultimately led to the diagnosis of her ascending aortic aneurysm. Her doctor recommended she go to the University of Michigan.

Lori was first seen by Dr. Himanshu Patel in November 2009 and underwent aortic surgery later that month. After her surgery, Dr. Patel and his team kept a close eye on Lori’s condition, examining her on a regular basis. Then, four years later, a second aneurysm was discovered just below where her previous aneurysm had been repaired — again, with no outward symptoms. Continue reading

Sweet potatoes versus yams: Clearing up the confusion

Just in time for holiday dinner

yams blog

Sweet potatoes, rich in beta-carotene, are a healthy addition to your Thanksgiving feast.

Sweet potatoes versus yams. If you find yourself confused about the difference between the two, you’re not alone. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture requires root vegetables labeled as “yams” to also be referred to as “sweet potatoes,” which only adds to the confusion.

The root vegetables found in most grocery stores with a smooth, tan skin and an interior orange flesh are sweet potatoes. If you happen upon a tuber with a rougher, dark brown skin and white flesh, you’ve likely come across a yam. Sweet potatoes can be found in almost any produce section while true yams are most often sold at international grocery stores.

Whichever you choose, yams and sweet potatoes are good additions to your holiday meal.  When prepared with skin on, both contain significant amounts of potassium and fiber — two nutrients that contribute to a heart-healthy diet. So, which should you include in your holiday spread? Continue reading