Tag Archives: heart disease

Heart Health for the Entire Family

As the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, heart disease is commonly discussed with the older, adult population. However, the conditions that lead to heart disease are happening at younger ages causing heart disease to develop in younger adults increasingly more often. Heart care and prevention is important for everyone. Being aware of what causes heart disease, while also developing heart healthy habits with your family, are both great forms of defense.

What can you do to take control?

Make heart-healthy choices in your diet. Diets high in trans-fat, saturated fat, and added sugar increase the risk for heart disease. Sodium (or salt) increases blood pressure, and most Americans eat too much of it, including children. Pay attention to the nutrition labels on food packaging. A food’s sodium content is something that is clearly listed. By replacing foods high in sodium with fresh fruits and vegetables, you can help lower your blood pressure. In fact, only 1 in 10 adults is getting enough fruits and vegetables each day.

Other helpful ideas to use with children include focusing on the quality of what your child is eating and that they eat until they are full. In other words, no clean-plate club. Quality over quantity. Remember to use kid-sized portions. A good rule to keep in mind is one tablespoon of food per age of the child for each meal option (about two or three foods). It’s also good to serve one meal for your entire family. Plan meals to include at least one thing that everyone likes. Try healthier options for celebrations, and instead of rewarding children with food, give verbal praise or hugs for good behavior. Finally, if you have some particularly picky eaters, get creative to make fruits and vegetables fun. Try using unsweetened raisins or small pieces of fruit to make faces on healthy foods.

Stay active. Physical activity helps keep the heart and blood vessels healthy. Yet, only 1 in 5 adults meets the physical activity guidelines of getting 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity. In fact, more than 1 in 3 American adults – and nearly 1 in 6 under the age of 18 is obese. Carrying around this extra weight puts stress on the heart. It can also contribute to more serious conditions like diabetes. This disease causes sugar to build up in the blood, causing damage to blood vessels and nerves that help control the heart muscle. Simply taking an evening walk as a family or playing an active game together in the back yard each night can help everyone meet their daily cardio goal.

Don’t smoke. Smoking damages blood vessels in our body and can cause heart disease. Despite the decades of health warnings, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. More than 37 million U.S. adults currently smoke on a regular basis, and thousands of young people start smoking every day. If you don’t smoke – fabulous! Don’t start and be sure to talk with your older children about the dangers of smoking as well. If you do smoke, learn more about our smoking cessation services. Quitting smoking takes a lot of emotional energy and can be very stressful. Let our qualified staff help develop an individualized quitting plan.

Be consistent in managing any current health conditions. Millions of Americans (of all ages) have high blood pressure, and about half don’t have it under control. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease, as well as other harmful conditions including stroke. Work with your healthcare team to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Be honest and work together with your provider. Take medications as prescribed.

Heart disease can often be prevented when people make healthy choices and manage their health conditions. By making some simple changes to your family diet and exercise habits, you can help keep your family on the heart-healthy track. Set attainable goals and try to be consistent. Modeling these behaviors will also help your kids form these great habits. When communities, health professionals, and families work together, living heart healthy is possible.


Medical Associates is proud to provide advanced heart care that’s close to home. All of our cardiologists are board certified and bring many years of exceptional cardiac care to the community, making it the most complete and up-to-date cardiology program in the Tri-State area. Medical Associates also offers the only cardiothoracic surgeons in the area, and we have the experience and expertise to perform a full array of complex surgeries and techniques. These departments work closely with Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and others to provide comprehensive medical management, diagnosis, and treatment of patients.



Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease, Stroke

Elderly man lost in thought

Plain old snoring can get a little annoying, especially for someone listening to it. But when a snorer repeatedly stops breathing for brief moments, it can lead to cardiovascular problems and potentially be life-threatening.

It’s a condition known as sleep apnea, in which the person may experience pauses in breathing five to 30 times per hour or more during sleep. These episodes wake the sleeper as he or she gasps for air. It prevents restful sleep and is associated with high blood pressure, arrhythmia, stroke and heart failure.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and stroke is also a leading cause of death and disability. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for both.

“The evidence is very strong for the relationship between sleep apnea and hypertension and cardiovascular disease generally, so people really need to know that,” said Donna Arnett, Ph.D., chair and professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the incoming president of the American Heart Association.

A Common Problem
According to Dr. Arnett, one in five adults suffers from at least mild sleep apnea, and it afflicts more men than women. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), when weight on the upper chest and neck contributes to blocking the flow of air. OSA is associated with obesity, which is also a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Besides obesity contributing to sleep apnea, sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea can, in an ongoing unhealthy cycle, lead to further obesity. In OSA the upper airway closes off because the muscles that hold it open lose tone. The more weight, the more loss of tone and the more severe the sleep apnea. Each time the airway closes, there is a pause in breathing.

A less prevalent type of sleep apnea is called central sleep apnea (CSA). In CSA the brain doesn’t send regular signals to the diaphragm to contract and expand. There is limited snoring and it has been associated with brain stem stroke because the brain stem is where the impulse to breathe comes from.

Listen to Those Snoring Complaints
A roommate or sleeping partner of someone with sleep apnea often notices it. “It’s really hard to detect if you live alone, unless you go through a sleep study,” Dr. Arnett said. People with sleep apnea may be more tired during the day and therefore prone to accidents or falling asleep.

Getting Proper Treatment
Through treatment known as continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, blood pressure is stabilized. The CPAP device involves wearing a mask while sleeping. It keeps air pressure in the breathing passages so they don’t close down.

In a sleep study, doctors count pauses in breathing to determine whether the patient has mild sleep apnea, characterized by five to 15 episodes per hour; moderate sleep apnea, defined by 15 to 30 per hour; or severe sleep apnea, meaning more than 30 each hour.

It’s certainly possible to have simple, loud snoring without sleep apnea. But with regular snoring, the person continues to inhale and exhale. With sleep apnea, the sleeping person tends to have periods when he or she stops breathing and nothing can be heard. The good news is treatment that keeps the breathing passages open and oxygen flowing can yield fast results, Dr. Arnett said. “Blood pressure comes down really quite quickly.”

Getting Good Rest
If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep follow some of these suggestions:

  • Get regular physical activity, but don’t do it right before bed because that gets your adrenaline pumping and can keep you awake.
  • Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks for men; too much alcohol interferes with sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine before bed.
  • Develop a pre-bedtime routine such as taking a warm bath, dimming the lights or having some herbal tea.

If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, be sure to discuss this with your primary care provider. A referral to a pulmonologist may be necessary. At Medical Associates, Dr. Mark K. Janes is Board Certified in sleep medicine and provides diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders including sleep apnea. Examination of abnormalities of sleep is available with overnight trend oximetry and polysomnography.


Source: www.heart.org


7 Recommendations for a Heart Healthy 2017

AMA President Andrew W. Gurman, MD, recently said, “This is the perfect time of year for all of us to reflect on our personal health goals and resolve to make healthy lifestyle choices in the coming year.” It is important, as Dr. Gurman said, for people to understand “where they can make the most impactful, long-lasting improvements in their health.” Here are seven ideas to keep your heart health on track for 2017.

1. Limit your consumption of beverages with added sugars. Avoid sports drinks and soda which have over 100 calories of added sugar per container. Try drinking water, coffee, unsweetened tea or other calorie-free drinks instead. When you do drink beverages with sugar, go for milk or all-fruit juices.

2. Know your risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Take a self-screening test now to determine your risk at DoIHavePrediabetes.org. Eating healthier, exercising regularly and losing between 5 and 7 percent of your body weight can help prevent diabetes.

3. Be more physically active. Adults between ages 18 and 65 need at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity five days a week, such as walking briskly, bicycling slowly or gardening. Or if you prefer a more intense workout, like running or tennis, 20 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity three days a week is recommended.

4. Avoid processed food and added sodium. Be mindful of sodium counts in packaged foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, pasta, dressings, sauces, soups or gravies. Opt for fresh, frozen or canned foods without any added sauces or seasonings when possible, then try other fresh herbs and spices for flavor.

5. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For women over age 21, that means up to one drink a day, and two drinks daily for men over the age of 21, as defined by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

6. Talk with your doctor about tobacco use and quit. Your physician will help you drop the tobacco habit for good with evidence-based, FDA-approved cessation aids.

7. Declare your home and car smoke free to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.


By the Medical Associates Clinic Heart Team
The Department of Cardiology provides a wide range of services including initial evaluation and management of all types of cardiac and peripheral vascular diseases. The Department of Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery provides multiple types of surgical treatment of diseases related to the heart, coronary arteries, major blood vessels, chest, lungs, and esophagus. This department serves as consultants to primary physicians, but will accept self-referrals by patients.


Cardiovascular surgery: mending a broken heart

By Lance Bezzina, D.O.

You may have read about common forms of heart disease, but did you know that Medical Associates has the only surgeons in the region with the ability to perform these potentially life-saving procedures? With experienced and highly-trained doctors and surgeons, Medical Associates has the expertise to mend broken hearts through various cardiovascular surgeries.

Stenosis requires valve repair

Stenosis, or the disability of the heart valves to open properly, can lead to heart failure. Once symptoms of stenosis occur in a patient, they first visit a cardiologist before being referred to a cardiothoracic surgeon. While we can operate on all four valves, we commonly only operate on two: the mitral and aortic valve. The surgeon will determine whether it is necessary to replace the damaged valve using either a tissue valve, which lasts around 15 years before needing replacement, or a mechanical valve, which rarely needs further intervention but requires the patient to be on a blood thinner for the rest of his or her life. In the case of mitral valve complications, the native valve can be repaired, offering a permanent fix with no need for blood thinners.

Aneurysms and dissections require emergency surgery

If there is a tear (dissection) or rupture of the aorta—the main artery of your body—emergency surgery is required. Ideally, surgical correction would be performed before dissection or rupture complications occur, so it’s fortunate that your risk of these serious complications can be determined through screening and monitoring the size of the aorta, which allows doctors to intervene before the critical size is reached. Of course, prevention is another key tool in protecting yourself from aneurysms and dissections. The best way to prevent an aneurysm is to abstain from smoking and maintain blood pressure control, and anyone with first degree relatives with a history of aneurysms should be screened, which can be done with ultrasounds and CT scans.

Coronary artery disease requires bypass surgery

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the number one killer in the United States. Luckily, it is a manageable disease. There are numerous ways to treat CAD, including medicine, stenting and bypass surgery. If there are serious or numerous blockages of coronary arteries, you are at risk of a heart attack, and a referral to a cardiothoracic surgeon needs to be arranged for potential bypass surgery.

In bypass surgery, similar to how one would take the service drive to avoid an accident on the highway, cardiothoracic surgeons create the service drive around the blockage so the blood “bypasses” the blockage. Typically, bypass surgery involves placing a patient on a heart-lung machine and suturing (stitching) veins harvested from the leg and arteries from the inside of the chest to reroute blood past these blockages. After the two to three hour procedure, the patient is monitored, discharged and placed on a cardiac rehabilitation program to take full advantage of their surgery.

Bypass surgery started in the 1960s and has a proven mortality rate of only around 1 percent. This surgery is also extremely durable—around 90 percent of people still have functioning bypasses 12 years after surgery.


The good news is that heart attacks are preventable. While some risk factors such as advanced age and a family history of CAD are beyond your control, many others are. Unfortunately, fewer than 10 percent of U.S. men are free of all preventative risk factors, which include high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, a sedentary lifestyle and smoking. Smoking nearly doubles your risk of dying from heart disease.

Luckily, a healthy lifestyle and daily exercise can prevent the onset of heart disease. A heart-healthy diet consisting of foods low in calories, salt and saturated fats can decrease your risk of obesity and diabetes and assist with healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Getting your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked on a regular basis through your doctor are further preventive measures you can take, and an annual physical after age 40 is recommended to keep up your cardiac health.


Medical Associates has the only surgeons in the Dubuque region with the ability to perform these life-saving procedures. It is important to schedule annual physicals with your healthcare provider and receive cardiac screenings if appropriate. If at any time you experience chest pain/pressure, left arm or shoulder pain, shortness of breath or you feel faint or weak, you should immediately go to the nearest emergency room. These could all be warnings signs of heart disease, and, if treated promptly, could save your life.

Lance Bezzina D.O. practices at Medical Associates in Dubuque. He is board certified in general and cardiothoracic surgery. He is on staff and performs surgery at Unity Point Health-Finley Hospital and Mercy Medical Center Dubuque. In addition to performing the entire scope of cardiac, thoracic and vascular surgery, he is also department chair for cardiothoracic surgery and director of cardiac rehab at Mercy Medical Center. For an appointment please call 563-584-3445.