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American Heart Month – Early detection and diagnosis

Posted at 2:43 PM, Feb 23, 2022

February is American Heart Month and it’s a time to raise awareness about heart disease. Heart failure is a leading cause of death across the globe, and it affects over 6.2 million people in the United States.

Early detection and diagnosis can be key to managing heart disease and living a fuller and more active life.

Mercedes Wilson talked with Dr. Philip B. Adamson, divisional vice president and chief medical officer of heart failure at Abbott and a young mom living with heart failure, Tiara Johnson.

Dr. Adamson says one of the most important things to remember is that heart failure can affect anyone, and we typically think of heart failure as an older person’s disease but we are all at risk and the heart will tell us when there is a problem if we listen. He goes on to say we feel things many times associated with exertion or exercise such as abnormal shortness of breath, you can’t go up a flight of steps without having to stop, going out to the car and having to stop to catch your breath. All of those are worrisome signs that the heart could be damaged or could have heart failure.

Dr. Adamson says the heart is an amazing organ; it can heal, it can recover and so if damage is ongoing, knowing about it and fixing that damage or fixing the process that is causing that damage, can lead the heart to recover, so the earlier we are able to address problems the heart may have, the more likely it is the heart can get better and patients can continue to have good outcomes and patients good quality of life.

Tiara Johnson says she was diagnosed with postpartum cardiomyopathy after the birth of her second daughter. When she got home, she says, I just felt something was not right and the doctors did not diagnose me and so I went undiagnosed for two months and when I was officially diagnosed my heart function declined to less than ten percent and after three years of medical interventions and medical care, my heart did not just recover and I was referred out to the Heart Advanced Failure Clinic at the University of Michigan. She says it is there that I met my now cardiologist. She was able to get a CardioMEMS device as well as a HeartMate 3 which both gave her a sense of hope and gave her a quality of life back until she received a heart transplant in November of 2021 after battling heart failure for six years.

What message does Tiara have for us? She says there are three key points that I want to point out. First recognize the signs and symptoms that you are experiencing and write them down to share with your doctor. Also, she says it is okay to advocate for yourself. If you feel like you are not receiving the proper care, it is okay to seek a second or third opinion if you have to and most all, remain hopeful. She says it is not a death sentence, be proactive about your healthcare and the odds will work in your favor.

Dr. Adamson says COVID-19 required us to move to a virtual or remote management strategy rather than face-to-face in-office visits and we at Abbott have developed several technologies to help with that by providing information from implanted devices that doctors can use to get a better understanding of how the patients are doing at home. In fact, he says, the data we get from the CardioMEMS system is even better than what one would get in the office, so the pandemic really did push us into this virtual remote management concept and now that the patients have experienced it, they really love it, and this is a very efficient way to care for people with chronic disease.

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