Discover the benefits of yoga

The U-M Domino's Farms Fitness Center features a top-notch yoga program

yoga blogMary Armstrong loves yoga. It’s something the 67-year-old has practiced over the years as a way of connecting with her grown daughters.

So when she experienced high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat a few years ago, Mary was happy to discover the rehabilitation program at the University of Michigan Preventive Cardiology Fitness Center at Domino’s Farms included a yoga program. It proved to be a perfect fit for her, both physically and emotionally.

“This yoga program is so different from other classes I’ve taken,” says Mary. “The instructors perform each pose slowly and help us do the poses correctly.” She says the class is challenging, but the instructors are happy to demonstrate modifications whenever necessary.

Mary believes her yoga practice has helped lower her blood pressure, which is monitored before and after each class. “I’m now in the normal range,” she says. The four weekly classes Mary fits into her schedule have also increased her strength and flexibility. Continue reading

Recycling pacemakers: Providing affordable health care abroad

Project My Heart Your Heart collects pacemakers for potential use in developing countries

It started with a simple patient question asked years ago: “Could someone use my pacemaker after I die?” The question was met with exploration and now a mission to provide recycled pacemakers to patients across the globe.

U-M team implants new pacemakers during medical mission to Ghana.

U-M team implants new pacemakers during medical mission to Ghana.

Small, reliable and easily held in the palm of a hand, the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center’s Project My Heart Your Heart hopes to bring recycled pacemakers within reach of those in developing countries as a novel way of treating heart disease.

“This type of activity already goes on on a small scale,” says Dr.Thomas Crawford, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan.

“Doctors will literally reprocess pacemakers themselves and then take them in a suitcase and go on medical missions for a week or two to re-implant devices. The difference in our program is that we want to develop a standardized protocol that can be followed by any other charity that wants to do this,” he explained.  Continue reading

Treating breast cancer, saving the heart

Cardio-oncologists help keep hearts healthy during and after cancer treatment

My work at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center focuses on preventing and minimizing heart damage that can be caused by cancer treatment. It’s a risk faced by more than 2 million breast cancer survivors who have had either chemotherapy or radiation.

Dr. Elina Yamada is a member of the cardio-oncology team at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Elina Yamada is a member of the cardio-oncology team at the University of Michigan.

I recently had the chance to talk to a group at Gilda’s Club of Metro Detroit, a community that provides emotional and social support for adults, teens and children living with any kind of cancer, and in October they turned their attention to breast cancer.

Here are some of the common questions I hear from breast cancer survivors:

What’s my risk?   – Various cancer treatments can interact with the heart. Chemotherapy drugs, such as anthracyclines, designed to kill cancer cells can also harm heart muscle cells, causing a condition called cardiotoxicity. The risk can be low or high depending on the drug. Radiation therapy to the chest can lead to thickening or scarring of heart structures, such as the valves or pericardium (membrane surrounding the heart), and also affect the heart vessels, causing heart attacks. This could impact left-side breast cancer patients.

What kind of heart problems I can develop? Heart problems may develop during, or even years after cancer treatment. Cardiotoxicity can cause heart failure, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, slow heart rate, or fluid around the heart. Radiation can cause heart valve disease, heart attacks, and thickening of the lining around the heart.

Is there anything I can do to prevent them? If you have cancer and want to avoid heart problems in the future, I recommend:

  • low-cholesterol diet to avoid developing blockages in the heart vessels
  • low-salt diet to avoid developing high blood pressure
  • Get daily exercises, such as walking at least 15 to 30 minutes, as tolerated
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Maintain healthy weight to avoid obesity and diabetes which increase your cardiac risks

What symptoms should I worry about?  Symptoms caused by cardiotoxity can be common to the ones caused by cancer itself or treatment, such as fatigue, shortness of breath and leg swelling. In general, patients should tell their doctor if they have shortness of breath, chest pain, heart palpitations, fluid retention in the legs, distension of the stomach, dizziness or fainting. The Cardiologist should be able to examine you and run tests to determine if they are caused by heart problems or not.

Can I wait to treat my heart problems? Beating cancer is the first priority for women with breast cancer. Preventing and treating heart problems from cancer treatment can be coordinated with your Oncologist, so that you can conclude your cancer treatment. The goal of our Program is to ensure that breast cancer survivors have a healthy heart to enjoy the rest of their lives.


 

Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe Cardio-Oncology Program at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center treats patients with cardiac tumors and collaborates with cancer specialists to prevent and minimize heart damage caused by chemotherapy and radiation.