Penn Heart and Vascular

Penn Heart and Vascular Update

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Miracles at Penn Heart and Vascular

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." 
- Albert Einstein

Miracles happen all around us. And Penn Heart and Vascular is a part of countless miracles each day. Over the years, the stories of patients that have gained a quality of life they never dreamed possible or accomplished life goals they never thought would happen is overwhelming.

As you celebrate this holiday season with loved ones, take the opportunity to reflect on some of the miracles in your own life as well as some of the remarkable patient stories that we are so thankful for.


Miracles happen when you decide not to settle. As a nurse, Bonnie knew something was wrong when her leg became pale and lifeless. After being diagnosed with Cystic Adventitial Disease, she spent seven years going through procedures with no relief and her quality of life decreasing every day. That's when she came to Penn. The Vascular Team gave Bonnie her life back. As the clock ticks down on 2014...she'll be back acting as her husband's sous chef for New Year's dinner!


Miracles happen when you least expect them. Erin was 13 weeks pregnant when she went into sudden cardiac arrest while teaching gym class. After a school nurse responded with an AED, Erin was rushed to a good local hospital, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong. So she asked to be transferred to Penn. This December, Erin, her husband and a new family addition are together to celebrate an important milestone: baby's first Christmas.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Food Swaps: Tips for a Heart Healthy Thanksgiving

A heart healthy Thanksgiving can be hassle-free. Just follow these simple food swaps!


No need to swap out the Turkey on Thanksgiving. Just make sure you remove the skin and go for the white meat of the turkey breast.

Top Tip: Remove skin and roast in olive oil and seasoning to get that golden brown look.


Use multigrain or whole wheat bread instead of traditional white bread. Swap chicken broth for reduced-sodium chicken broth. Just as delicious with much less sodium.


Green Bean Casserole

Keep the green beans (fresh or frozen) and swap the canned soup for low fat milk. Still as creamy, but without the fat and sodium.


Cranberry Sauce

Make your own cranberry sauce! Combine cranberries (fresh or frozen), Splenda and water; simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat, add sugar-free gelatin and refrigerate. Hassle-free, much less sugar and just as tasty.

Chileshe Nkonde-Price, MD, is director of the Women's Cardiovascular Center at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
For information about the Penn Medicine Women’s Cardiovascular Center, or to schedule an appointment, please call 215-615-4949 or 800-789-PENN.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Diabetes & Your Heart [Infographic]

November is American Diabetes Month. Did you know:
  • Heart disease and stroke is the number one cause of death in people living with type 2 diabetes.
  • Females with diabetes have a greater risk of mortality than males with diabetes.
  • The American Heart Association lists diabetes as one of seven major controllable risk factors of heart disease.
Know your risk for diabetes and take action. Share this infographic with your family and friends, and help a loved one today.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Live Web Chat: Treating Heart Rhythm Disorders

There is a lot to consider when choosing the best option for your heart rhythm disorder. Having answers to the right questions can help you make an informed decision about the best treatment option.

Have questions about heart rhythm disorders?

Join an online video chat to get your cardiac arrhythmia questions answered. Penn Medicine's Jeffrey Luebbert, MD, and Satoshi Furukawa, MD, will be available to answer these questions, as well as yours:
  • What are the different types of heart rhythm disorders?

  • What are the initial signs and symptoms?

  • What other health risks are associated with rhythm disorders?

  • Someone in my family has a heart rhythm disorder, am I at risk?

  • What's an appropriate level of physical activity? Are there foods or drinks I should avoid or add to my diet?

  • What non-surgical treatment options are there? Is there a common drug therapy?

  • Will I have to take medication for the rest of my life?

  • When are pacemakers used as the treatment option vs. an implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Contributing to the 2014 Philadelphia Heart Walk

The 2014 Philadelphia Heart Walk is just under three weeks away. If you are looking for some creative ways to raise money in this last month, we've got some for you. If you are looking for a way to pitch in even though you can't make the Heart Walk, we've got some ideas for that as well. Everyone has the opportunity to help in some way.

In the Office:
  • Super Box: Ask your co-workers and friends to put their extra change in a "SuperBox". Decorate the box or cover it with inspirational quotes or designs and place it near the water cooler or kitchen. You could also translate this idea to your home and encourage your relatives and friends to donate. 
  • Voicemail: Change your voicemail and answering machine messages to include information about your participation in the Heart Walk and let people know how they can help. Tell your friends, family and colleagues to visit for all the info they need! 
  • Add a note to your electronic signature: Get in the habit of signing your emails with your name followed by Heart Walk donation information. 
    • Example: Help me raise money for the American Heart Association (AHA) and its fight against stroke and heart disease! Donate to my team now (link to team page) or visit for more information. 
At Home: 
  • Email your friends: Email everyone in your contact list and invite them to visit your team page. 
  • Eagles football party: Host an Eagles football party at your house/apartment. Every time the words "run" or "walk" are said by the announcers, everyone antes up $1 in a pledge bowl. 
  • Social Media: "Like" Penn Medicine Heart and Vascular on Facebook and keep up to date with ways to help spread the word for the Heart Walk. Creating a conversation about heart disease helps to spread awareness. Use the hashtag #PhillyHeartWalk. 
  • Game night: Host a game or karaoke night and charge an admission fee of $5 per person. Help your friends and guests to help supply the punch and snacks for the evening. This makes for a fun way to raise money.  
In the Community: 
Learn more about the 2014 Penn Heart Walk Team at

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Preparing for a Doctor's Appointment

Do these 6 things before your next doctor's appointment
Whether it's going for a regular check up or seeing someone for a second opinion, doctor's appointments can often feel overwhelming. You may worry about getting bad news or feel concerned about the tests that may need to be performed. However, getting ready prior to the appointment can help decrease your anxiety.

Here are 6 things you can do to prepare for your next doctor's appointment:
  1. Create a list of current medications. Include the name of the medication, dosage, and how often you take it. It is a good idea to print this list off and keep it inside your wallet; as well as give a copy to a close friend or relative. Make a note of any concerns or questions you have about the medications you are taking.

  2. Remember your allergies or sensitivities. Include medications, foods and body care products. Often a food allergy can be associated with a medication so those are just as important to note.

  3. Document your family history. Be prepared to answer many questions about family history. If there are things that are very specific or you think you may forget, make sure to write them down.

  4. Bring your medical records. Your primary physician likely already has access to your full medical record, but make sure you communicate any changes or concerns since your last visit. If you are seeing a new doctor, call their office ahead of time to coordinate the delivery of your records. Prepare to communicate key issues from your medical history and be proactive about sharing issues you think are important. Finally, bring copies of films and test results that were performed since last seeing this doctor.

  5. Write down your questions. Due to the stress and anxiety that you may feel at the doctor's office, sometimes it is difficult to remember all the health questions you have had leading up to the appointment. To make sure you ask them, write your questions down ahead of time.

  6. Bring a family member or friend. Having support at your appointments can be helpful for a number of reasons. Your partner can help you remember what the doctor said during the appointment, they can help ask questions you may not think of, and of course, the extra moral support comes in handy too.
Think about or write down these six things and bring them to your next appointment. That way, you'll feel more relaxed and be more likely to cover what's important in your visit.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ejection Fraction: What the Numbers Mean

Ejection fraction is a measurement that can gauge how healthy the heart is.

A low ejection fraction number can be an indicator of heart failure and can lead to a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Swelling in the legs and feet

What is ejection fraction?

A healthy heart contracts (empties blood) and relaxes (refills blood) 60-80 times each minute. With each heartbeat, the heart pumps blood from the left and right ventricle.

In most cases, ejection fraction refers to the percentage of blood that's pumped out of the left ventricle with each heartbeat. For example, an ejection fraction of 50% means that 50% of the blood from the left ventricle is being pumped out during each beat.

There are two types of ejection fraction: left ventricular and right ventricular. Left ventricular measures how much blood gets pumped from the left ventricle with each contraction. Typically, ejection fraction refers to left ventricular. Right ventricular ejection fraction measures how much blood is pumped out of the right side of the heart, to the lungs.

What are the tests used to determine ejection fraction?

  • Echocardiography – the most common test used to measure ejection fraction.
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • Nuclear medicine scan
  • CT (computerized tomography)

What do ejection fraction numbers mean?

  • 55 to 70% – Normal heart function.
  • 40 to 55% – Below normal heart function. Can indicate previous heart damage from heart attack or cardiomyopathy.
  • Higher than 75% – Can indicate a heart condition like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Less than 40% – May confirm the diagnosis of heart failure.

How can you improve your ejection fraction?

  • Limit salt – the average American eats nearly 3,400mg of sodium a day – more than double the recommended amount.
  • Watch your fluid intake – talk with your cardiologist about how much fluid to consume each day.
  • Exercise – try some type of physical activity 30 minutes each day, three days a week.

After the initial ejection fraction measurement, your doctor will check the number as needed, depending on your condition. Because ejection fraction is just one measure of how well the heart is working, even when this number is normal, the heart may not be functioning properly.

Heart failure is a complex disease, but it is manageable – especially when you are armed with the right information.

Our heart failure team is "certified and advanced" by the Joint Commission, meaning we specialize in treating patients with heart failure and take the time to answer all of their questions.