Penn Heart and Vascular

Penn Heart and Vascular Update

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Dine Out with Us and Fight Heart Disease!

2 Great Restaurants, 1 Great Cause

Fight heart disease by choosing healthy meals at two award winning Philadelphia restaurants!

Doc Magrogan’s and Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar have once again teamed up with Penn Medicine to raise money for the Philadelphia Heart Walk.

Show your server a Penn Medicine ID or this flyer any time between August 1 and November 7, and 10% of your total bill will be donated to the American Heart Association.

Additionally, if you order the heart healthy menu options marked with a Penn shield an additional 10% on those items will be donated to the AHA.

Join Penn's Heart Walk Team

The 2015 Philadelphia Heart Walk is on November 7 at Citizens Bank Park. If you would like to become a 2015 Heart Walk team captain, register as a walker or make a donation, visit Penn's Team Page, or contact Cara Feldman at

Monday, August 17, 2015

What’s Your Risk for Cardiovascular Disease?

Emil deGoma, MD, Medical Director,
Penn Preventive Cardiovascular Program

Cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. — and heart attacks and strokes frequently happen without warning.

Knowing your risk before cardiovascular disease strikes is a key first step to living a long, heart-healthy life. That's because with knowledge about your personal risk comes power — the power to make lifestyle changes and begin a plan that can actually prevent you from suffering a heart attack or stroke.

"With some diseases knowing your risk doesn't always help, because there might not be anything you can do to reduce your risk," says Emil deGoma, MD, FACC, medical director of the Preventive Cardiovascular Program at Penn Medicine.

"Understanding your risk for cardiovascular disease is different," adds deGoma, "because there is a lot you can do to prevent it. You can change your risk and do things to help avoid heart attacks and strokes."

The impact of heart disease in the United States

  • 1 out of every 3 deaths is caused by cardiovascular disease.

  • Every 34 seconds, someone will experience a heart attack.

  • Most people who die suddenly of heart disease have no previous symptoms.

Determining your risk

To start determining whether you're at risk for cardiovascular disease, you'll need to know a few of your key numbers:

  • Bood pressure
  • Blood glucose (sugar)
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

You can get these numbers by requesting a fasting blood test from your health care provider.

You can also take Penn Medicine's HeartAge Cardiac Risk Profiler to get a better understanding of your personal risk factors for heart attack and stroke. The assessment tool takes into account lifestyle risk factors (such as cigarette smoking, poor nutrition, a lack of regular physical activity, and being overweight) as well as family history to calculate your risk for cardiovascular disease.

If you are worried about your risk, the Preventive Cardiovascular Program at Penn uses advanced technology and techniques unavailable anywhere else in the Philadelphia region to better understand your individual risk of heart attack and stroke. These include advanced tests for more precisely measuring cholesterol, 24-hour blood pressure monitoring, genetic testing, and imaging tests of the heart and arteries.

If these tests and assessments determine you're at increased risk of heart and vascular disease, your healthcare team can make a personalized plan to treat your risk.

Ready to get the most comprehensive picture of your risk for heart disease?

Learn more about Penn's Preventive Cardiovascular Program.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Join Penn Medicine's 2015 Heart Walk Team!

Walk alongside the Penn Medicine community, American Heart Association (AHA) and people of all ages at the 2015 Philadelphia Heart Walk on Saturday, November 7. This year, the Penn Medicine challenge is to raise $200,000!

Over 600,000 people in the U.S. die each year from heart disease; that's nearly 1 in every 4 deaths. By supporting the heart walk, you'll be making a difference in people's lives – including your own.


Saturday, November 7, 2015
8 am - Registration Opens
10 am - Opening Ceremonies
10:30 am - Heart Walk Begins!


Citizens Bank Park
1 Citizens Bank Way
Philadelphia, PA 19148

Help Penn raise funds and surpass last year's efforts by joining a Penn heart walk team, or starting your own team and participating in the 2015 Philly Heart Walk. Also in 2015, fight heart disease by dining out at two award winning Philadelphia restaurants!

To become a team captain, register as a walker or make a donation, visit Penn's Team Page, or contact Cara Feldman at

Thursday, July 23, 2015

One Question Everyone Should Ask Themselves

What would you do if you saw someone collapse and stop breathing?

In the United States, over 500,000 people suffer a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) each year, and the overwhelming majority of these occur outside a hospital where the chance of survival is less than 6%.

These were the stark findings last month, when the Institute of Medicine released a report on cardiac arrest.

The report examined opportunities to improve cardiac arrest treatment and outcomes, noting that the public plays a critical role in improving CPR survival, as bystander CPR and quick defibrillation with an AED are essential in improving survival rates.

According to the American Heart Association, effective bystander CPR can double or triple the chances of SCA survival, but only 32% of victims receive it.

In Philadelphia, just 4% of the population is trained in CPR. There is room for improvement — lots of room. Anyone and everyone can learn Hands-Only CPR and become a part of this change that can increase survival in cardiac arrest victims.

So, ask yourself this question: Do you know Hands Only CPR?

Once we've convinced you that Hands-Only CPR is worth learning, the only thing left is to learn it. Dr. Benjamin Abella, Associate Director of the Center for Resuscitation Science makes it easy for you in this short video: How to Save a Life in 90 Seconds. Arm yourself with a tool that allows you to do something, not just standby when someone's life is at stake.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

3,400 Miles on a Bike, With a New Heart

Heart transplant recipient Derek Fitzgerald is happy to be home.

Pushing the limits of what any heart transplant recipient has gone on to do, Derek has reached the end of his 44-day ultra-distance bike ride.

As part of the Recycledman Foundation's Tour for a Cure, Derek and fellow athletes Dave Madden and Maire Reynolds traversed the continent from Santa Monica, California to Avalon, New Jersey. The purpose: to raise money for cancer research, promote heart health, and bring awareness to organ donation.

A brief sendoff event this morning at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania celebrated Derek's post-transplant accomplishments. Riding with Derek on the last leg of his journey were more than a dozen cyclists.


Derek has faced daunting health problems in his life. In 2003, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Derek beat the cancer, but the treatments damaged his heart – he went into severe heart failure that ultimately led to a transplant in 2011.

Hear Derek tell his story:

With multiple IRONMAN competitions already under his belt, Derek is gearing up for two more: IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant and the IRONMAN World Championship in October.

We wish Derek all the best in his upcoming competitions!

Learn more about Derek's Recycledman Foundation and follow them on Facebook.

Monday, July 20, 2015

5 Tips for Exercise with Heart Failure

Exercising has been shown to provide benefits to people with heart failure.
People with heart failure may find symptom relief with exercise

For many people with heart failure, shortness of breath and low energy during physical activity are hallmarks of their condition. In fact, these symptoms during exercise are often the first indicators of heart failure, and tend to be a primary reason that people seek medical care.

While exercise is good for the heart, many people with heart failure find it difficult to stick to a program. "When you are sick with heart failure, fatigue can be an overwhelming symptom, which makes exercise quite difficult," explains Amy Marzolf, MSN, CRNP, Heart Failure Clinical Practitioner at Penn Medicine. "The problem can then multiply because the less you do, the less you can do — and it becomes difficult to know if your disease is progressing or if you are becoming deconditioned."

It’s important to remember that exercise will not improve your ejection fraction (the percentage of blood your heart can push forward with each pump). However, it can help to improve the strength and efficiency of the rest of your body. It’s also been shown to boost quality of life for patients living with heart failure.

Trying to maintain some level of physical activity can be very helpful in the long run in both keeping the rest of your body as healthy as possible while also preventing weight gain.

Of course, exercise is easier said than done. Here are five tips to help you kick start your exercise program.

Know the Benefits

Over the past two decades, research has shown the positive impact of exercise training in patients with heart failure. Among the benefits are:

Start slowly and build up gradually

When starting or changing an exercise program, it's important to start slowly and to gradually increase the amount and intensity of the exercise. Everyone has a different starting point, and that’s just fine. Some people start with walking around the room a few times a day. The key is to very slowly increase your activity. Don't expect to go from 0 to being a marathon runner. Set realistic and reachable expectations. "We often tell patients that if you add two steps every day, that is progress. Slow and steady is exactly who wins when it comes to heart failure and exercise," says Amy.

Pick something you enjoy

If you're already walking regularly, try picking up a new activity like cycling or swimming. This can keep you interested, and motivated to continue. You'll feel better by doing something different, too!

Get an expert's opinion

Before starting any new exercise regimen, or if you want to increase the intensity of your current program, talk to your doctor first. As with any major change, there are risks that should only be assessed by an expert familiar with your circumstances. The doctor may be also able to point you in the direction of a good cardiac rehabilitation program and give you pointers about exercises to try and which to avoid. The good news is that cardiac rehabilitation is now covered by health insurance plans for many patients who suffer from heart failure.

Don't overdo it

It's important to manage the risks involved with any exercise program. A key component of managing risks is preventing overexertion. A good measure of intensity is that you should be able to talk while you are exercising. You should also pause or stop exercising completely if you experience breathing difficulties, lightheadedness, chest pain, nausea or vomiting. If the symptoms continue several hours after the exercise, contact your doctor or nurse.

Do you have questions about your heart failure or other cardiac condition?

Learn more about Penn's Heart Failure Program or Find a Penn Cardiologist today.

Monday, June 29, 2015

How Your Heart Valves Are Like Traffic Controllers

Penn's Heart Valve Disease Program is the largest in region.

Learn more about Penn's Heart Valve Disease Program.

You're driving down the highway. The road is congested, but it's moving steadily. And then you see something ahead, a construction worker forcing traffic to slow down or stop.

Your heart valves play a similar role as a traffic controller, regulating the flow of blood by opening and closing, millions of times each year. The primary function of these valves is to ensure blood flows in only one direction—toward your lungs. Your lungs are where blood gets oxygenated, so it can be sent out to the rest of your body.

"When heart valves fail, the flow of blood through the heart is disrupted. So, you can have varying problems, most seriously heart failure," says Maureen Julien, MSN, CRNP, lead nurse practitioner for interventional cardiology at Penn Medicine.

To get a better picture of the impact heart valve disease has on your body, we'll look at how blood circulates through your heart.

The Road Map

First, let's outline the route. Your heart is comprised of four valves: pulmonary, aortic, tricuspid and mitral, each with its own flaps that open and close with each heartbeat. That familiar "lub-dub" sound your heart makes is your heart valves regulating traffic, or opening and closing to move blood through your heart.

How heart valves function, enabling blood to flow throughout the body.

The flow of blood is only as good as the traffic controllers, conditions and flow of traffic. However, if the valves aren't functioning properly, you can experience a range of symptoms, including:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Unexpected weight gain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

Let's take a look at three of the main issues that happen with heart valves:

  1. Stenosis: an over-restriction in blood flow
  2. Regurgitation: blood leaks through or flows backwards
  3. Atresia: occurs when valves are not properly formed, often at birth

Stenosis: An over-restriction in blood flow

Valve stenosis occurs when a valve fails to open properly. The flaps of the valve—also called leaflets—may be too stiff, too thick, or even fused together.
Aortic stenosis obstructs normal blood flow in the heart
It’s similar to when traffic controllers merge four lanes of traffic into one. Because all traffic must now move through this single lane, the volume of traffic flow is restricted. The same applies to your heart.

This happens for a variety of reasons. “Sometimes, leaflets just degenerate. The leaflets can be attacked by diseases like rheumatic heart failure if they have rheumatic fever as a child,” explains Maureen.

“A valve can also become calcified, which sometimes happens just with age,” she adds. Valve calcification occurs when calcium in the blood builds up on heart valves. With valve stenosis, the body gets less oxygenated blood, which if left untreated can lead to heart failure.

Regurgitation: Blood leaking through or flowing backwards

Valve regurgitation is also referred to as a leaky heart valve. Unlike in stenosis, the valve opens up completely but doesn’t close tightly enough. Blood may leak or backflow through the valve after closing.

Leaky valves are the equivalent of a traffic controller slacking on the job. Although the traffic controller is working, he’s not helping you get from point A to point B. So, a rogue driver may get a crazy idea to back up on the shoulder looking for another exit ramp.

“That annulus, or the circle that holds the heart valve, can dilate if you have an enlarged heart, for example,” Maureen says. “Sometimes, that shape can change. That change and dilation can cause distortion, so the valve does not properly close.”

When valve regurgitation occurs, the supply of oxygenated blood moving through the heart is reduced. This makes the heart work harder, which may produce fatigue or shortness of breath.

Atresia: Valves that are not properly formed

The last type of heart valve disease called atresia can actually result in stenosis or regurgitation. Atresia occurs if a heart valve isn’t formed properly, often at birth.

Improper formation of valves, which usually occurs with pulmonary or aortic valves, may include:

  • Too few leaflets or flaps
  • Incorrect valve size or shape
  • No opening to allow blood to flow through properly

“A lot of times, those valves don’t cause you problems even though you were born with it. Until you become an adult,” says Maureen.

Regulating Traffic Flow

If you feel like you’re headed for a major traffic incident, it’s important to get the heart valve issue diagnosed and monitor the condition. Ultimately, to prevent a major traffic incident, Maureen recommends talking with your physician. “I think it’s important to keep open lines of communication with your doctor. If you’re feeling a change in your symptoms and something is different, then let them know,” she says.

Do you have questions about heart valve disease?