Penn Heart and Vascular

Penn Heart and Vascular Update

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Did you know nearly 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from aortic stenosis?

Robert S. Farivar, assitant professor of surgery and chief of cardiovascular surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital, discusses aortic stenosis.

Aortic stenosis is a heart disease of the aortic valve. The aortic valve acts as a one-way gate, allowing blood to flow from the heart into the rest of the body. If the aortic valve narrows, the heart needs to work much harder to pump blood throughout the body.

The occurrence of aortic stenosis greatly increases in elderly people. The aortic valve normally has three leaflets called cusps and, as people get older, calcium can gradually build up on the cusps, resulting in stenosis or narrowing of the valve.

People with aortic stenosis may not experience signs right away. Often times, the disease is detected during a regular physical exam. Signs and symptoms typically appear when the aortic stenosis becomes severe. These can include:
  • chest pain
  • fainting
  • heart palpitations
  • heart murmur
  • lightheadedness
  • shortness of breath

Treatment Options for Aortic Stenosis

Aortic stenosis cannot be reversed with medications, but some drugs can help control associated conditions like irregular heart rhythms. Surgical options include:
  • Balloon valvuloplasty – A balloon opens the aortic valve to improve blood flow. However, narrowing often occurs again after this procedure.
  • Aortic valve replacement – Requires removing the narrowed valve and replacing it with either a mechanical valve or tissue valve.
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) – Unlike traditional methods, TAVR does not require open-heart surgery. Instead, the procedure uses a catheter to replace the aortic valve.

Help the Earth and Your Heart at the Same Time

As we head into Earth Day, one thing to remember is that taking care of the planet can also help you take care of your body.

Creating a sustainable environment often comes with benefits for your health, in more ways than one.

Here are 6 ways to help Mother Nature - and your heart - at the same time:

  1. Grow a Garden, Plant a Tree

    Growing a garden can provide plenty of fruits and vegetables to keep your heart healthy and flowers to improve your mood. But they, along with trees, also give us plenty of fresh air to breath. And it's not just the fruits of your labor that are heart healthy, it's the labor itself. Now is a great time to plant a seed!

  2. Tour Your Local Farmer's Market

    Many towns these days have farmer's markets where local produce and goods are sold by farmers and producers in the area. Head to to find a farmer's market near you. Grab your reusable shopping bag, your grocery list and head out for a nice stroll around your market to fill up on all kinds of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

  3. Take Part in Meatless Monday

    Decreasing the amount of meat in your diet and instead adding in more vegetables and legumes can have a beneficial effect on heart health. Pick one day, like Monday, and go meatless. Studies indicate you'll be helping the Earth by eating less meat, too, by saving on the amount of land and resources used to raise livestock.

  4. Walk or Ride Your Bike to Work

    Get some fresh air and exercise all while eliminating the gas that it takes to drive to work. Maybe you'll make a habit of it!

  5. Take a Walk, Pick Up Trash

    Next time you see the sun shining, take a walk. Head to your local park with a shopping bag. Pick up some trash that you see along the way and dispose of it where it belongs, keeping our Earth a little cleaner all while getting some exercise in at the same time.

  6. Quit Smoking

    Some estimates say that for every 300 cigarettes produced, one tree is destroyed. Not only that, but cigarette butts are the #1 litter item found on beaches and roadsides -- and they can be poisonous to children and pets. Healthwise, cigarette smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease by itself. Take one step toward quitting today. We can help you stop smoking.

It turns out today isn't just about the planet, it is also the perfect time to start improving your health. Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Find a Cardiologist Right For You With These 6 Tips

Believe it or not, there are many different reasons that people seek out the care of a cardiologist. From those without symptoms to those with active disease, cardiologists comprise a specialty that is geared toward both the prevention and treatment of heart disease.
Who you choose to see is not a decision that should be taken lightly. There are many factors that come into play when choosing any doctor, but especially a physician that is so "close to your heart."

Here are 6 steps to ensure you find the right cardiologist for you:
  1. Accessibility – Where your cardiologist's office is located and the hospital where he or she has privileges are important factors to consider. If you are someone with active heart disease, numerous trips to the cardiologist may be needed for check ups and tests throughout the year. At Penn Medicine, we have over 20 community cardiology locations across eastern Pennsylvania and into New Jersey. Being accessible without sacrificing exceptional care is something that we pride ourselves on. Our cardiologists have access to world–class testing, research, and operative facilities at four of the region's top hospitals – University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Pennsylvania Hospital, and Chester County Hospital.

  2. Credentials – A cardiologist is a physician that specializes in preventing and treating heart and blood vessel diseases. There are some credentials that you can look for when you are looking for a cardiologist. The acronym F.A.C.C. following a physician's name stands for Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. This is an elected professional designation that is obtained by those that have achieved excellence in the field of cardiology. You also want to ensure that they are board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

  3. Insurance Coverage – Double check with your insurance company to ensure that the cardiologist that you choose is in your network of physicians. You can also call the hospital or physician's office to make sure that they accept your insurance. You do not want to be surprised by unanticipated medical expenses. Penn Medicine's providers participate with many medical insurance plans and provide financial counseling services to patients regarding their ability to pay for services.

  4. Start Chatting – Once you have narrowed down cardiologists that are accessible to you, have the appropriate credentials, and accept your insurance, start talking with others in your community. You may know of someone that has seen or is seeing a cardiologist. Ask them about their thoughts on both the physician and the health system in which they practice.

  5. Communication – This is a very important part of any patient/doctor relationship. You want to make sure that your questions will be answered in a way that you understand. You need to be a part of your health care decisions, on the front lines of those decisions, not taking a back seat. Find a cardiologist that will make you part of the team with the same end goal – good heart health.

  6. Innovation – Find a cardiologist that is at the forefront of his/her specialty. When it comes to the prevention and treatment of heart disease, the science of medicine is always improving. You want a cardiologist that knows firsthand these changes, one that is a part of advancing the field. Penn Medicine prides themselves on a three part mission that brings together excellent patient care, education that develops the next generation of leaders in medicine, and world class research that is advancing medical science.
Whether you have been seen by another cardiologist and want to get a second opinion, or it is your first time searching for this specialty, Penn Medicine can help. We hope these tips provide you with the confidence that you need to choose the best cardiologist for you.

Join our community on Facebook to keep abreast of advancements and tips related to your heart. Penn Medicine is always there to help!

Other posts you may be interested in:
How to Get a Second Opinion

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

5 Simple Tips For a Heart Healthy Diet

It is often suggested that everyone follow a heart healthy diet to decrease the risk of heart disease. But what exactly does that entail?

Here, Mariell Jessup, MD, shares 5 simple tips on successfully changing your diet into a heart healthy one. Dr. Jessup is President of the American Heart Association and Medical Director at Penn Heart and Vascular Center.

  • Eat 4-5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Per Day – Prepared foods can be detrimental to your heart health. Often times these options contain excess sodium and calories. By eating 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, you are leaving less room in your diet for these prepared foods.

  • Introduce Whole Grain Foods Into Your Diet – Whole grains such as wheat, barley, and pseudo grain, quinoa, tend to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol yet rich in fiber.

  • Use Non-tropical Oils For Cooking – Non-tropical oils such as olive, canola, corn, and safflower, are higher in monounsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats. Of all of these options...olive is the best pick for heart health!

  • Choose Chicken and Fish as well as Beans – Chicken and fish are lean animal meats that do not have the higher fat content that red meat has. Beans are another high protein source that also provide lots of fiber and little fat.

  • Learn to Read Labels – Knowing how many calories, the fat content (most importantly saturated and trans fat), and sodium amounts are important in maintaining a heart healthy diet. The American Heart Association has a Heart-Check Certification Program where there is an image seen on labels of various heart healthy foods throughout the grocery store.

Keeping these tips in mind, you can be on your way to a Heart Healthy Diet!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Healthy Eating On A Budget

Many inexpensive meals can be eaten in fast food restaurants but they do come at a price. These meals are easy and convenient but they are also high in calories, fat and sodium and can contribute to poor health.

Eating healthy does not have to cost more. Staying on a food budget may seem impossible, however, with a little thought and planning it can be done.

Here are some tips to help you prepare low cost, nutritious meals.

• Before grocery shopping create a list and check local food ads online or at the store, and clip coupons.

• Seasonal produce is typically less expensive than non-seasonal and buying foods in bulk can save both time and money.

• You can buy family-sized packages of meat, fish, poultry and vegetables and freeze them for however long you need.

• Convenience foods, like frozen dinners, cost more unless you buy them on sale. So stock up when you can.

• Stock up on important protein-rich foods that stretch your food dollar. These include eggs, peanut butter, canned salmon and tuna, beans and legumes.

• Turkey chili or a hearty bean soup can be prepared on a weekend and eaten during the week.

• Adding a slice of whole grain bread or salad can complete any meal and add an important healthy component.

• Casseroles that include canned salmon or tuna and vegetables can also be nutritious and will feed more for less.

• Eggs or vegetable frittatas can be served for dinner and stir fry meals can be prepared with less chicken, beef or pork when served with vegetables and brown rice.

• Snack foods can also add to the cost of your food bill. Making your own hummus from no-salt-added garbanzo beans, eaten with cut up carrots or celery, or peanut butter crackers can keep costs down.

Eating healthy requires you to make good food choices and develop useful shopping and planning skills. It doesn’t have to mean that it costs more to do so.

For more information, visit

Image of Fran Burke border=Fran Burke, MS, RD, is an Advanced Practice Clinical Dietitian in the Preventive Cardiovascular Program at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1994 she has specialized in the nutritional management and treatment of lipid disorders in the Preventive Cardiology Program at HUP.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How to Get a Second Opinion from a Doctor

Being diagnosed with a medical condition, especially one that comes with the need to make decisions regarding your care and treatment, can be an extremely stressful and overwhelming time. Whether it’s a heart condition, or an ailment of another system, it is important that you have a doctor that you trust, and with whom you feel comfortable.

After you have received a diagnosis, you may have questions about whether or not to get a second opinion.

Reasons to consider a second opinion...

Maybe the diagnosis is not something you expected, and you just want someone else to say the same words as a second check. Sometimes patients like to hear different opinions on what next steps in their treatment would be so they can make the most informed decision. Whatever the reason, the decision is yours, and it’s perfectly normal to want to seek a second opinion.

You are in charge of the decisions that are made regarding your health. You owe it to yourself to feel comfortable with your decisions.

One thing is for sure…

“Take charge of your health. Work with providers you trust to make decisions that are right for you.” says Douglas Jacoby, MD, a preventive cardiologist Penn Cardiology Cherry Hill and Penn Presbyterian Hospital.

How to go about getting a second opinion…

A good place to begin when seeking a second opinion is your primary care provider or another trusted doctor that you may see. Friends and relatives are other great people to ask for recommendations of good doctors, especially if they have been treated with the same condition or know someone who has been.

Hospital’s online physician profiles as well as unbiased medical listings can come in handy when finding out more information about the doctor that you end up choosing. You can find these publications online or at your local library - libraries often provide free access to these subscription based services. A good place to start is the American Medical Association, U.S. News and World Report Doctor Finder, and the American Heart Association. Further, specialty societies generally house listings of specialists in that area. For example, if you are looking for a Lipid Specialist, visit the National Lipid Association.

Be sure to check with your insurance company to make sure that the doctor that you have chosen is within your health insurance network so that you are not surprised by unexpected medical expenses.

Now that you’ve chosen a doctor for a second opinion…

Have all of your medical records forwarded to his or her office or get a complete set yourself and bring them with you as well as a copy of all relevant images/CD’s to the appointment. Also bring with you a list of questions that you would like answered. This will allow for a more focused appointment. It will also ensure that you leave the appointment with a clearer second opinion.

It’s also a good idea to bring someone with you to the appointment if at all possible. Having an extra set of ears and some extra support may alleviate some of the stress of meeting someone new and hearing their opinion. Take notes, and make sure you fully understand what the doctor has said. A friend or relative can make sure that you have an accurate recollection of the conversation.

What if the medical opinions differ?

A good question to ask yourself is: Does the plan of the initial doctor or the second doctor make the most sense, involve the least risk, and focus on the medical issues that are most important to you? Have trusted family and friends help you make the most informed decision and the one that is best for YOU. Every patient’s situation is different and it is important that you are on board with the treatment plan that you ultimately choose.

Let Penn Medicine be your source for an
expert second opinion. Find a cardiologist today.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy [Infographic]

Age, gender, family history. These are a few heart disease risk factors that you don't have much control over. However, that doesn't mean you can't be proactive about taking care of your heart.

From not smoking and limiting alcohol to exercising and being mindful of what you eat, there are many lifestyle habits that can keep your heart in good health.

Check out the Penn Heart and Vascular Center's Top 10 Ways to Stay Heart Healthy. Then, follow Penn Heart and Vascular on Facebook and tell us some of the ways your family stays heart healthy!