Atrial fibrillation: what you need to know

Treatments vary depending on a patient's symptoms and stroke risk

September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness MonthStethoscope and heart ECG

Atrial fibrillation (“a-tree-uhl fih-bruh-lay-shun”), or A-fib, is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that starts in the upper portion (atria) of the heart. A-fib affects more than 5 million Americans and is the most common arrhythmia that leads to hospitalization. A-fib is the leading cause of stroke and is associated with an increase in morbidity and mortality. During A-fib, the upper chambers of the heart beat rapidly and erratically in a chaotic way without any effective muscle contraction. A-fib may develop as a result of changes in the heart due to age. Hypertension (high blood pressure), valvular heart disease, coronary artery disease, over-activity of the thyroid gland or excessive alcohol intake may promote A-fib. There can also be a genetic component. Continue reading

Mitral valve repair vs replacement

“Repair is always better”

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U-M patient Perry Katsiskas believes she made the right decision in choosing to have her mitral valve repaired versus a future replacement.

Panorea (Perry) Katsiskas’ mitral valve disease didn’t slow her down. A daily exerciser, she lived an active life, relatively free of symptoms. But Perry, like many of the millions of Americans diagnosed with a degenerative version of the disease, was faced with a decision: mitral valve repair vs replacement. In other words, should she have her mitral valve repaired now or wait until her condition required complete valve replacement?

Under the care and counsel of Dr. Francis D. Pagani, surgical director of the U-M Adult Heart Transplant Program and director of the Center for Circulatory Support, Perry chose to have her valve repaired. “Dr. Pagani explained that if and when I experienced symptoms, it would likely be too late,” she says.

“I came in feeling healthy, had surgery and went home feeling healthier,” says Perry. “I felt Dr. Pagani cared about me and my outcome. And the outcome speaks for itself. Early intervention saved the quality of my life.” Continue reading

Effects of caffeine on heart health

How much is safe?

A cup of joe may be good for you, but don’t fall for the bull. The Red Bull, that is.

About half of U.S. adults age 20 or older are coffee drinkers. Coffee is the principal source of caffeine in this country, in addition to tea and soft drinks. Because it is a stimulant, the effects of caffeine on heart health are constantly being studied.

Benefits of your morning brewCaffeine image 320x320

Overall, the findings have shown that moderate coffee drinking of 1-2 cups per day is likely not harmful. Some studies have even shown beneficial effects of having up to 4 cups of coffee or tea, including reduced risk of heart failure, arrhythmias, stroke and type 2 diabetes; improvements in blood pressure; and reductions in all-cause mortality. However, the extent to which caffeine plays a role in these protective effects is still unclear. Coffee and tea are known to have high levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which protect the body’s cells and tissue like blood vessels and heart muscle. Therefore, more studies are needed to distinguish the benefits of the antioxidants from the effects of the caffeine. Continue reading

What causes metabolic syndrome?

Condition may be inherited but lifestyle choices still play major role

A new study about genetic mutations causing an inherited form of metabolic syndrome points to the potential of future drug development to treat diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

While the results of this study are promising — and the first to indicate that a genetic mutation can influence the development of metabolic syndrome and coronary heart disease — the study involved a very small group and was not representative of a larger population. However, it does indicate that, over time, we may be able to block the effects of the mutation that leads to metabolic syndrome with medicine.

Lifestyle influence

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The U-M Metabolic Fitness Program promotes behavioral change for a healthier lifestyle.

In the meantime, the answer to the question, “What causes metabolic syndrome?” is that lifestyle choices play a major role in controlling the five health conditions involved with the disease. Having three or more of these conditions may lead to a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, which can result in heart attack, stroke, heart failure and diabetes.

While over 80 percent of those with metabolic syndrome are likely to have a genetic link to the condition, lifestyle choices are believed to be a major contributor. Lifestyle changes can also help a patient achieve better health and reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Continue reading

Stroke treatment options

Time is critical: Get help quickly

Stroke 320x320Approximately 795,000 Americans each year suffer a new or recurrent stroke. On average, a stroke occurs every 45 seconds. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and disability in the world.

A stroke-related death occurs every 4 minutes within the United States. Stroke encompasses not only patients that have blockages of their brain arteries but also those patients who have bleeding within the brain. Because of the destructive nature of stroke, it is important to take advantage of effective stroke treatment options by getting to an emergency room as quickly as possible.

Continue reading

U-M Heart Walk team spreads important heart health message

The Heartthrobs walk to ensure women are vigilant about heart disease

One American dies from a coronary event every minute, and someone is stricken by such an event every 34 seconds. Similarly, one person in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds and someone dies from stroke every four minutes.

The University of Michigan Health System is making great strides in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease through top-notch clinical and research capabilities. The American Heart Association supports these efforts and funds many cardiovascular research studies within U-M. In return, U-M is a major supporter of the AHA’s 2014 Washtenaw County Heart Walk/5K Run, which raises money for cardiovascular education and research.

Heart failure gives a personal perspective

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U-M top walker Deidre Todd will lead the Heartthrobs team in the 2014 Heart Walk.

When hundreds of U-M employees gather on the campus of Eastern Michigan University on May 10, they’ll be there with a common goal: to help raise funds for the fight against heart disease and stroke.

One of those teams — the Heartthrobs — will be led by Deidre Todd, a 25-year University of Michigan Health System employee and heart disease survivor. Deidre, a clinical safety coordinator in the Office of Clinical Safety, has been a top walker in past AHA Heart Walks, but her commitment to helping raise funds for heart disease and stroke research and education now stems from a personal perspective. It is driven by her desire to encourage women to be vigilant about their heart health.

Delayed diagnosis

Deidre’s health challenges began after the birth of her child, Alex, in 2009, at age 43. “I thought my exhaustion and fatigue were the result of being an older mom,” she says. A few months after her son’s birth, she developed a condition that was diagnosed as bronchitis, but she continued to feel weak and run-down for months. Deidre’s fatigue and nausea continued to worsen until the point one night in early 2010 when she drove herself to the emergency room of her local hospital. After extensive testing, Deidre was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. Continue reading