Know your health history

Create a stronger doctor-patient relationship


Knowing and writing down your health history can help create a stronger relationship with your doctor and positively affect your care and recovery.

Dr. Kim Eagle, a director of the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, urges patients to know your health history–that is, to take ownership of your medical story and document it in a concise way. This, he says, benefits both healthcare professionals and the patient.

Writing down your personal issues, past surgeries, current medications and other information relevant to your emotional and physical health helps you establish a stronger relationship with your physician, Dr. Eagle says. “The more patients commit to documenting their story and sharing information, the more they help us to be better doctors,” he says, adding that a strong doctor-patient relationship can also affect a patient’s care and recovery.

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New warfarin and Coumadin alternatives

Is one of the new anticoagulants right for you?

row of bottlesand pills

New anticoagulant medications for patients with afib can be effective alternatives to warfarin (Coumadin and Jantoven).

The American Heart Association reports that more than two million Americans have atrial fibrillation, a rhythmic disorder of the heart where the atria (the heart’s pumping chambers) quiver instead of beat. Because of the risk of stroke and systemic embolism associated with atrial fibrillation, patients are often prescribed anticoagulation medication to prevent these secondary adverse outcomes. The most common medication is warfarin, also known as Coumadin® or Jantoven®.

Three new medications approved for afib patients

However, three new anticoagulants have recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration: dabigatran (Pradaxa®), rivaroxaban (Xarelto®) and apixaban (Eliquis®). This means that warfarin, Jantoven® and Coumadin® alternatives are now available for patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation who need an anticoagulant. While these new medications do not require routine lab monitoring as warfarin does, patients may pay higher medication copays, depending on insurance coverage, says Brian Kurtz, clinical pharmacist, University of Michigan Cardiovascular Medicine.

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Grapes: New obesity-fighter?

U-M study shows grapes may reduce abdominal fat


A U-M study showed that a grape-enriched diet reduced liver, kidney and abdominal fat in rats.

According to a recent University of Michigan study, grape consumption may help protect against organ damage associated with the progression of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes.

The University of Michigan’s E. Mitchell Seymour, Ph.D., studied the effects of a high-fat, American-style diet both with grapes and without grapes (the control diet) on the heart, liver, kidneys and fat tissue in obesity-prone rats.

Grapes reduce inflammation throughout the body

The results showed that three months of a grape-enriched diet significantly reduced inflammatory markers throughout the body, but most significantly in the liver and in abdominal fat tissue. Consuming grapes also reduced liver, kidney and abdominal fat weight, compared with those consuming the control diet.

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Video: Get moving and get fit

Tips for how to fit exercise into your daily life

In our second University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center educational video, Dr. Lisa Jackson, assistant professor of Internal Medicine at University of Michigan, and Theresa Gracik, director of the U-M Preventive Cardiology Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, discuss the benefits of simply getting up and moving throughout the day. Don’t have time to watch the video? Read the quick tips below:

Video recap: Quick tips on how to get moving

Unlike children, adults are less likely to think of activity as a playful experience and more like just another task on our to-do list. Dr. Lisa Jackson’s patients often ask, “What kind of exercise is the best for my heart?” Her answer: “The one you have fun with, because that’s the one you’re going to stick with.”

We often think exercise means going to the gym. But even if you can’t fit in a workout, there are a few things you can do throughout your day that can make a significant impact on your overall health:

  • At work, increase your activity: If you have a desk job, get up and move around once every hour, or cross the hall to talk to a coworker instead of sending an email.
  • When you’re watching TV, move during the commercials (preferably not directly  to the refrigerator!).
  • Park your car as far away as possible from your meeting or shopping site.
  • Take the stairs.

Theresa Gracik points out that we chafe at certain suggestions for how to improve our activity level because we’ve heard them so often–we get bored with them. The main point to take away, however, is  that the small steps we take toward becoming more active really do help.The Nurses’ Health Study showed that simply walking briskly can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke: 10 minutes, three times a day is something that almost everyone can do.

University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center Logo - blueThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is the top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit the Heart and Vascular page on


How to control high blood pressure

Natural remedies can be effective


There are several steps you can take to control high blood pressure, including some natural remedies

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a worldwide problem and the leading risk factor for death, according to Dr. Robert D. Brook, associate professor of medicine and cardiologist at the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center. With an estimated one billion people diagnosed with high blood pressure throughout the world, “it is truly a global problem, on par with tobacco use as a risk for dying.” But, he adds, “It is a controllable disease.” Read on for things you can do to control high blood pressure, including some natural remedies.

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What are the signs of a stroke?

Acting quickly is a key to recovery

stopwatch-strokeA stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked or bursts. Without oxygen from the blood, that part of the brain starts to die. The part of the body controlled by the damaged area of the brain then stops working properly.

According to Dr. Eric Adelman, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan, brain damage can begin within minutes of experiencing a stroke, so it is important to know the symptoms of stroke and to seek immediate treatment.

Call 911 immediately if you suspect stroke

“If you or someone you know is having a stroke, the first thing to do is to call 911,” Dr. Adelman says. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the potential for brain damage and disability. “If a stroke patient is given clot-busting medication, called tPA, within 4.5 hours, their chances for recovery increase.”

Although the majority of a stroke patient’s recovery happens within the first year, “With intense rehabilitation, a patient may continue to recover after the first year,” says Dr. Adelman. Younger individuals who suffer a stroke tend to have better recovery results.

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