81-year-old TAVR patient’s road to recovery

A remarkable woman shares her inspiring journey to good health

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The Edwards SAPIEN 3 Transcatheter Heart Valve

Shirley Clarkson is a remarkable woman with a strong will to live. At age 81, she has undergone a multitude of health issues. This is her story of survival, thanks to recent progressions in medicine.

In 1998, Shirley was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and was treated with high does of radiation. Despite aggressive treatment, she overcame difficult odds and was able to get back to an active lifestyle that included regular workouts and miles of daily walks.

Some 10 years later Shirley’s general practitioner discovered a heart murmur during an echocardiogram and recommended she be seen at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center. Here, Dr. Michael Shea diagnosed her with aortic stenosis, a narrowing of the aortic valve opening, likely caused by radiation treatment. Continue reading

Warfarin or Pradaxa? Making the choice.

Dr. Geoffrey Barnes weighs the pros and cons of atrial fibrillation meds

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Atrial fibrillation (also know as Afib) is a quivering or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) that can lead to blood clotsstroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. According to the American Heart Association, approximately 2.7 million Americans are living with Afib.

Atrial fibrillation has long been treated with the blood thinner Coumadin, also known as warfarin, which was approved by the FDA in 1954. However, new blood thinners, or anticoagulants, to treat Afib have come on the market in the last six years, including one known as Pradaxa. Continue reading

Rethink that drink for better heart health

Eliminating sugary and diet beverages may reduce your chances of heart disease

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What’s your favorite beverage? Coffee with sugar? Tea with honey? Diet soda or low-calorie sports drink? Read on to learn how your go-to beverage could be affecting your heart.

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, beverage consumption in the United States accounts for 47 percent of all added sugars. Those guidelines also report that higher intake of added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, is consistently associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke in adults. Continue reading

Walk for heart health!

Get ready now for National Walking Day on April 6

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Walking is great for many reasons, especially if you find yourself sitting at a desk all day. That applies to quite a few of us because, according to the American Heart Association, sedentary jobs have increased 83 percent since 1950. So it’s important to get moving during lunch, after work and on weekends for heart health and overall well-being. 

You can get started by gearing up for National Walking Day on Wednesday, April 6. Then, make a commitment to incorporate walking into your daily routine. Continue reading

92-year-old U-M TAVR patient honored

Madge Cowles makes the trip of a lifetime, thanks to her TAVR

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Photograph by Leisa Thompson.

At the tender age of 92, Weltha “Madge” Cowles still looks forward to new experiences. In fact, she recently returned from what she says was the experience of a lifetime: being honored in Washington, D.C., for her Rosie the Riveter work during World War II. Rosie the Riveter was the name given to American women who worked in factories and shipyards during WW II.

Madge became a “Rosie” at the Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti at age 18. Eventually, she was trained to perform electrical work on bomber planes, alongside her father. For three years, the pair drove from their home in Albion to Willow Run, working during the week and sleeping in a trailer, then returning home on weekends. “I enjoyed my work and fellow workers. I never missed a single day,” she says proudly. Continue reading

Heart device gives patient freedom during wait for heart transplant

Michael Richards feels “lucky” to be alive after heart failure diagnosis

Michael Richards, 25, has a total artificial heart controlled by wearable technology, giving him the freedom to visit Ann Arbor's Hands On Museum with his 2-year-old daughter.

“I was a nervous wreck,” says Michael Richards, Jr., 25, about the first time he and his family changed the battery for the backpack-sized device that controls his heart.

When most people hear “wearable technology,” they think of fitness trackers and enhanced glasses. The total artificial heart works on a higher level — allowing heart patients independence as they wait for a heart transplant.

The 14-pound Freedom® Driver, which Richards carries in a backpack, powers the total artificial heart with precisely calibrated pulses of air. The University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the only Michigan heart program to send patients home with the wearable technology. Continue reading