Posted by: Steve | May 31, 2012

Study: Broken heart can trigger heart attack


Posted on April 25, 2012 at 5:10 PM

DALLAS — “My chest started hurting and it was hurting across my shoulders,” recalled 56-year-old Beverly Spinden. “And you know what I remember more? More my upper arms.”

A year after that heart attack, Spinden still reflects on its surprising cause. It wasn’t plaque build-up from unhealthy living, but her beloved dog, named Ritz.

Just days after Ritz died, Spinden started suffering chest pain.

She went to Texas Health Dallas Hospital and was treated by Dr. James Park, an interventional cardiologist wh has seen cases like Sinden’s before.

“What they theorize is the arteries spasm, causing damage to the heart,” he said. “Then, when I do an angiogram to look at the arteries, it looks like there’s no blockages there, but there’s damage to the heart.”

It’s called stress cardiomyopathy, or “broken heart syndrome.”

New research presented this week at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego finds that during mental stress, blood flow through the heart increases in men, but doesn’t change in women. The findings suggest women’s hearts might not adjust properly to stress.

This study involved just 17 people. Experts say more studies are needed to determine why there is a gender difference in stress response.

“I think that women — being the complex beings that they are — they really do get affected by stressful situations,” Dr. Park said. “How they react is after an event is much worse than men. Some of that is late diagnosis; some of that is the artery size differences.”

Beverly Spinden has had no lasting effects from the attack, though her heart still aches for Ritz.

Posted by: Steve | May 31, 2012

Broken heart syndrome

The story below highlights how stress and depression can trigger heart problems.

Posted by: Steve | March 15, 2012

‘I make it my mission’


Sandra Campbell

Heart disease can be a surprise. Most people don’t anticipate having heart disease, particularly not at the young age I did, 49. I was a teacher. I was fit, was not obese, had never smoked and had only the occasional drink. I was the most stunned person in the world when an ER physician told me I was having a heart attack. One day I came home from school and began experiencing terrible back pain in the middle of the right side of my back. It became more severe until it was a relentless stabbing pain. I was trying anything to make the pain go away: a heating pad, lying on the floor, sitting in the chair, anything. My husband kept urging me to call my doctor or let him take me to the ER.  I resisted, thinking the pain would subside. It continued for almost four hours.

About midnight, he said, “We are going to the emergency room.” “For a backache, seriously? They’ll laugh me out of there,” I replied. They didn’t. They admitted me to the hospital and the next day did an angiogram, which revealed two main primary arteries to my heart were 90 percent blocked. They took me immediately to do an angioplasty and stent placement. The blockage was unusually elongated, so they chose to put in an extra-long stent. It collapsed in the middle of the night as I lay in the ICU and I had another heart attack. By morning, they’d brought in a surgeon and had to perform double bypass. However, I did not get better because I was left with congestive heart failure. Subsequently I experienced two additional heart attacks. Read More…
Posted by: Steve | March 9, 2012

‘Something was very wrong’

Donna’s story

Donna Wilburn

Six years ago, at 5:10 on a Monday morning, I awoke feeling different than I ever had before. Something was very wrong. My hands were numb, and I had pain radiating down my arms, jaw line, shoulders and back. It was a pain that I had never experienced. I knew almost immediately I was having a heart attack. How I knew, I don’t know. But I just knew that’s what it was. I woke my husband, and I said, “Honey, I’m having a heart attack.” He flew out of bed and ran to get our self-care health book with a checklist of symptoms to tell if you are having a heart attack.

As he started to read off symptoms, I began experiencing them. It started out with the numbness, and then a cold sweat came over my entire body. I was still able to walk to the car, so he gave me an aspirin and drove me to the emergency room. Luckily, we were only about a mile from the hospital, so we got there in no time. I walked in and told them, “You know, I think I’m having a heart attack.” 

I went through triage and then was taken to the emergency room. And sure enough, I had an irregular EKG, and my blood test showed that I had enzymes in my blood. For heart attacks, measuring the levels of cardiac enzymes in the blood is a common test for the diagnosis of a heart attack and the amount the damage done to the heart. I was admitted to the hospital and went through the CATH lab. They found I had blockage of 70, 90 and 99 percent in my LAD, which is the left anterior descending artery. I have three stents now and I’m doing great.

That was my introduction to heart disease, and like many women, I discovered I had coronary artery disease the hard way. Unfortunately, there are women not as lucky as I was in surviving a first heart attack. Because of the fast treatment I received, I was able to recover with minimal damage to my heart and am now taking medication to lower my cholesterol and blood pressure.

I hope that everyone realizes that there is no quick fix for heart disease. The good news is that heart disease can be prevented or controlled by making lifestyle changes, in most cases, by taking medication. My mission is to make sure that other women don’t have to experience what I did.  Now I work as an advocate educating women about heart disease and the importance of early detection, accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Posted by: Steve | January 26, 2012

My heart attack has really become a part of my life

By Stephen O’Brien

The testimonial below is from heart-attack survivor Mary Gill. It’s a fascinating, moving story that thankfully has a happy ending. Today, Mary is an advocate for raising awareness about heart disease and helping women understand the warning signs.

 Mary’s story

My heart attack has really become a part of my life.

After it, I didn’t have a lot of lifestyle changes to make, but I think about it every day. My symptoms came on very quickly. In fact, I went from normal to thinking I was dying, in about three minutes.

I went to bed one night and awoke with nausea. It felt different from a stomach virus. I told my husband something was wrong, and within a few minutes I was having cold sweats, hyperventilating and experiencing excruciating pain in my shoulder blade. It felt like my body was failing me.

My husband is a physician, and although he doesn’t work on hearts, from his experience and my symptoms he knew it was heart related.

I will say, the only thing we did wrong was that we drove to the Emergency Room. Which was the right place to take me, but I should have been in an ambulance. If I would have truly “failed” while he was driving, that would have been catastrophic. When you’re in an ambulance they can take care of you in the moment.

But since my husband was on staff at the hospital, he knew exactly how to get me to the ER. He got me there within minutes, but I still had significant heart damage in such a small amount of time. They very quickly took me into an examining room and did an EKG, which showed that I was in extreme distress.

The staff immediately said, “Take her out of this room!” And sent me straight to the crash room. That’s when my husband knew something very serious was going on. The ER doctor, who didn’t look old enough to be my brother, leaned over and said, “Mary, you’re in the throes of a heart attack.”

Instantly I had people putting lines in my arm, placing nitroglycerine under my tongue and wiping my forehead, and it all became very real for me.

The cardiac team was called in. They performed an angioplasty and put in a stent. I spent three days in the hospital and then was in cardiac rehab for three months.

That was seven years ago. When I look back, I never smoked. I was never obese. I was in pretty good shape going into my heart attack. But now I take my medications religiously, and I’m just aware. I exercise, eat right and do all of the healthy things, but now I’m conscious that I’m a heart attack survivor.

I was honestly embarrassed when I had a heart attack. In fact, I told my husband right out of recovery, “Why don’t we not tell anybody about this?” Which is crazy. I think other women can relate to that in some kind of way. I felt like my heart attack weakened me, not physically – but it’s something that happens to men. I was 42 years old, and it would’ve never entered my consciousness that I would have a heart attack.

I would have guessed breast cancer or something like that. I’ve had many girlfriends go through that, and they are wonderful survivors. I don’t know why women don’t talk about it. Maybe it makes us think about our own mortality. It just usually happens to men and to people who are older.

I was 42, which isn’t young, but way too young in my mind to have a heart attack. So whether or not your family has a history of heart disease, which mine didn’t, it’s important to stay educated. Because understanding your family’s heart history, your cholesterol, and your blood pressure is the best way to get to ahead of heart disease. In the medical world, so many things, like research and studies, are geared towards men.

 That’s changing, and Go Red is here to bring that change faster. Go Red is a proactive women’s movement that promotes education and women empowering other women. Everyone, men included, have women in their lives: their wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, coworkers. So it’s a powerful movement that men and women should get involved with.

By Stephen O’Brien

Jitters about plane travel rarely have anything to do with heart and vascular problems. The fear of flying is usually tops on people’s lists of anxieties when it comes to air travel. But many medical experts are quick to point out the dangers of something talked about much less: blood clots. They can form in the lower legs and travel to the heart or lungs. It happens when sitting stationary for long periods of time, especially on plane flights when people don’t get up and move around. Below is a story by Rita Rubin, which appeared on

By Rita Rubin

Heavy D’s name highlights one of the risk factors for the pulmonary embolism that killed him: obesity.

The 44-year-old rapper, whose real name was Dwight Arrington Myers, collapsed outside his Beverly Hills home Nov. 8 and died later at a hospital. He had recently flown from England to Los Angeles, which, combined with his weight and a pre-existing heart condition, caused deep leg vein thrombosis, said Craig Harvey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office. A blood clot, or thrombus becomes especially dangerous when a piece of it breaks off and travels to the lung, as it did in Myers’ case.

It’s been known since the early 1950s that air travel was linked to blood clots. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research has shown that long-distance travel longer than four hours, compared to not traveling at all, doubled the risk, which remained elevated for two months after the trip.

One study of nearly 9,000 employees of several international companies and organizations found that the absolute risk of a blood clot was one per 4,656 flights more than four hours long, according to the CDC. Other risk factors include recent major surgery, oral contraceptives, pregnancy and cancer.

“The clots that kill you are big,” says Dr. Jody Henson, an emergency medicine physician at Scott & White Hospital in Round Rock, Texas. “Typically, if it was big enough, you’d feel some pain in your legs or some swelling in your calf muscles.”

Of course, Henson notes, obese passengers might not notice swelling in their legs. But, like pregnant women, they’re at a greater risk for clots because blood doesn’t return as quickly from their legs to their heart.

To minimize the risk of a potentially lethal blood clot when taking a long trip, whether by plane, train or automobile, Henson says, get up and move around periodically, or at least wiggle your legs back and forth. Staying hydrated—skip the alcoholic beverages—helps too, according to the CDC.

And when you’re making your flight reservation, you might want to ask for an aisle seat. A 2008 Dutch study of recent air travelers found double the risk of a blood clot in those who had a window seat, particularly if they were obese. That’s probably because they were more cramped, the researchers speculated.

Posted by: Steve | January 18, 2012

Keep trying to quit

By Stephen O’Brien

Dallas pulmonologist Dr. Gary Weinstein says people may have to try several times before successfully quitting the smoking habit.

Great story about the importance of quitting smoking in this week’s Dallas Morning News. Writer Nancy Churnin did a fantastic job . One of the takeaways is that however someone chooses to go about trying to quit, just try. Stats show it usually takes a couple of times before kicking the habit takes hold.

How to stay motivated to quit smoking  The Dallas Morning News —  Jan. 17, 2012  By Nancy Churnin

 If at first you don’t succeed, quit, quit again.

  That’s the approach that worked for Ron Bauman, 66, of Flower Mound as he enters the New Year as a former smoker for the third and, he hopes, final time.

 And that’s the attitude experts would like more smokers to take. Six out of 10 smokers don’t succeed the first time, according to the American Lung Association. So if you’ve failed in the past, or your resolve to quit this year has been flagging, make another resolution not to beat yourself up. Also consider that you may have a better shot if you take advantage of the many new techniques, support groups and medicines that can be customized to fit your needs.

   Nicotine is the most common form of chemical dependence in the United States, with 443,000 people dying each year from tobacco-related illnesses and second-hand smoke, according to the American Lung Association. It’s a tough habit to crack, ranking with heroin, cocaine and alcohol in terms of addictive properties, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  Dr. Richard Hurt, director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center in Rochester, Minn., was a three-pack a day smoker through college and medical school. Motivated more than three decades ago by the birth of his children to become and continue smoke-free, he speaks from experience when he tells his patients that he understands how hard it can be to change.

 “If a smoker understands the neurochemistry of addiction, it takes away a lot of the guilt and helps the smoker understand it’s hard, but it can be done,” Hurt says. “These little white sticks look innocent, but they’re the holy grail of drug delivery devices, getting nicotine to the brain faster than shooting it intravenously. Most people think of a cigarette as crumpled up tobacco, but its design is as sophisticated as a space shuttle.”

 One of the newest inventions gaining steam is the e-cigarette, an electronic cigarette that delivers nicotine, but not tobacco, with “smoke” that is actually water vapor and propylene glycol. Many doctors don’t advocate them because conclusive studies are lacking.

 Some patients respond well to online support groups or text message reminders or prescription medications such as varenicline that block the pleasant effects of nicotine on the brain, which is what Bauman used.

 Nicotine replacement through a nicotine patch or gum, available over the counter, and prescriptions for a nicotine inhaler and the anti-depressant bupropion may prove helpful, too.

  The key is to address common patterns, such as the desire for a cigarette in the morning after a night of nicotine withdrawal, alongside each patient’s individual triggers, says Bauman’s physician, Dr. Gary Weinstein, chief of pulmonology and critical care medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

 To improve the odds of success, Weinstein advises viewing smoking as a multiple addiction that has to be tackled on several fronts.

 “First is the chemical addiction of your body to the nicotine. Second is the physical habit of having a cigarette in your hand and in your mouth. And third is the automatic behavior that comes from many years of smoking … [such as] every time they drink a cup of coffee or read the paper.”

 Because many patients turn to smoking as a stress reliever, trying to avoid stress or finding new stress relievers can be critical, too, Weinstein says.

 Bauman, who had to break the habit of smoking while talking on the phone, or when drinking coffee or having a beer, says he was driven to quit in June when Weinstein told him he was starting to get emphysema.

 “I was scared,” Bauman acknowledges. “I do think it’s different for everyone, but for me the No. 1 key is a desire to quit — not just thinking you should, not someone telling you that you should. You have to want to quit yourself. You’ve got to win that battle with yourself before anything else really works.”

  Not only do doctors agree that tossing tobacco is the single best thing people can do for their health and for the health of those they love, smoking has become increasingly unwelcome in many areas with half of the states and the District of Columbia enacting smoke-free laws, banning smoking in workplaces, bars and restaurants, according to the CDC.

 Texas does not have a comprehensive smoke-free law, but many individual workplaces have been declared smoke-free in the last year, and many insurance companies charge higher rates for employees who smoke.

  Heavily addicted smokers can explore the option of a residential treatment program such as the one Hurt offers at the Mayo Clinic. Others may want to work with their individual doctors or explore some of the free and low-cost programs offered by the American Lung Association, Nicotine Anonymous, National Cancer Institute and other non-profit and government organizations.

 Experts say it’s important to remember that the early stage of withdrawal can be the hardest. That’s when group or individual support can make the biggest difference along with a healthy diet, exercise and sleep. The Foundation for a Smokefree America advises drinking more water, avoiding sugar, caffeine and alcohol and trying deep breathing and cigarette substitutes such as cinnamon sticks or chewing gum.

 Bauman says he kept a piece of nicotine gum in his pocket for an emergency, but never felt a need to open or chew it. He says he’s looking forward to marking one year of being smoke-free next January, which will qualify him for a reduction in his health insurance. In the meantime, he’s enjoying being smoke-free this January.

 “It gives me a feeling of freedom,” he says. “Also, I don’t have to step outside in the cold weather to smoke.”

Posted by: Steve | December 30, 2011

An important part of the heart-care team

By Stephen O’Brien

Below is a story by Quynh Tran, a PR speciliast at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, about one of our very best here at Texas Health Dallas, Elizabeth Abderrahman, R.N., M.S.N., M.B.A. She’s the nurse manager of our hospital’s  heart and vascular inteventional unit.

Nurse Manager at Texas Health Dallas Accepted into Prestigious AONE Fellowship Program

DALLAS — Elizabeth Abderrahman, R.N., M.S.N., M.B.A., nurse manager of the heart and vascular interventional unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, has been accepted into the 2012 fellowship class of The American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE). Abderrahman is one in three nurse leaders in Texas and one of only 34 nationally to be accepted into the prestigious program.

“We are so very proud of Elizabeth. She is a great example of a leader who fulfills the mission, vision, and values of our hospital with a true passion for excellence,” said Cole Edmonson, D.N.P., R.N., FACHE, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at Texas Health Dallas. “She is well respected by her peers, hospital leadership and physicians in the organization and in the community.”

“She leads with integrity in a caring, competent and compassionate manner with the heart of a true servant leader,” he added.

The AONE Nurse Manager Fellowship program fills a void that currently exists in the education and development of nurse managers, according to the organization. The goal of the program is to ensure the future vitality of nursing leadership by meeting practice needs of the nurse manager and assuring nurse leaders are perceived as valuable members of their hospital management and executive teams. The program also helps fellows strengthen their current skills, acquire new competencies and further their leadership within their organization.

“I am honored to represent Texas Health Dallas and all of Texas Health Resources in this national fellowship,” Abderrahman said. “I am excited and eager to begin in January. This is a wonderful opportunity to grow in my career and help others grow theirs.”

The year-long fellowship incorporates the Nurse Manager Learning Domain Framework, with renowned faculty and experts in nursing leadership and management. The fellowship curriculum is broken into three parts:

  • The Science: Managing the Business(financial and human resource management, performance improvement, foundational thinking skills, technology, and strategic management)
  • The Art: Leading and Managing the People(leadership skills, relationship management and influencing behaviors, diversity, and shared decision making)
  • The Leader Within (personal and professional accountability, career planning, personal journey disciplines, and reflective practice)

Fellows attend four face-to-face retreats, educational conferences, and participate in experiential learning projects in which they are in constant contact with other fellows and faculty. An individual capstone project completes the curriculum. Through completion of the project, fellows gain insight and skill in the application of the competencies within the domain framework. The project focuses on an aspect of the learning framework, intended to benefit the sponsoring organization.

“Elizabeth is a natural leader,” Edmonson said, “who has been recognized as a change agent driving evidence based practices in her clinical areas, as well as a role model for us, most recently achieving her Certified Nurse Manager Leader from American Organization of Nurse Executives.”

Abderrahman has been involved in the Texas Health Resources Associates Campaign, an employee-driven fundraising program to improve hospital services, and the American Heart Walk.

“She also has been a proponent of continuing education in which she collaborated with physicians to provide ongoing in-services for staff,” said Elizabeth Asturi, M.S.N., R.N., NE-BC, associate chief nursing officer at Texas Health Dallas. Abderrahman implemented several innovative improvements for heart failure patients at Texas Health Dallas.

“Elizabeth is a shining example of a nurse leader who has helped improve patient care beyond the units she oversees, improving care delivered throughout the organization,” said Joan Shinkus Clark, D.N.P., R.N., NEA-BC, CENP, FACHE, FAAN, senior vice president and system chief nurse executive for Texas Health Resources. “This fellowship reflects that commitment to patient care and will help her advance her career in the coming years and advance clinician care at Texas Health Dallas, and all of the Texas Health hospitals.”

Abderrahman has been a recipient of the Longmire Award for Academic Excellence. She is also a member of the North Texas Organization of Nurse Executives, American Organization of Nurse Executives Diversity Committee, Association of Critical Care Nurses, Association of Critical Care Nurses, and Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society.

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is an 898-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, having provided compassionate care to the residents of Dallas and surrounding communities since 1966. US News and World Report has ranked Texas Health Dallas among the nation’s best hospitals in digestive disorders, orthopedics, and neurology and neurosurgery. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Dallas has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit

Posted by: Steve | December 23, 2011

Holiday heart syndrome



Great story below by WFAA’s Janet St. James about “holiday heart syndrome.” It can be very scarry if you’ve ever experienced it. But don’t forget, no chest pain or change in your heart rate should be dismissed if it persists. Even though holiday heart can resolve itself fairly quickly, it could be something more serious. And holiday heart alone can trigger a real heart attack. So here’s to drinking and eating in moderation and taking time to enjoy what matters most during the holiday season: each other’s company. 

Updated Thursday, Dec 22 at 1:50 AM

 DALLAS — “Eat, drink, and be merry.” It’s a famous holiday phrase.

But for some people, a little too much alcohol could have serious health consequences —  especially too much alcohol, which can trigger a bad reaction called Holiday Heart Syndrome.

“Holiday heart syndrome is really an abnormal beat of the heart in response to alcohol,” explained Dr. Mitchell Brooks, an orthopedic surgeon in Dallas. “And it doesn’t have to be a large amount of alcohol, though it could be.”

Dr. Brooks is also happens to be a heart transplant patient. He’s raising awareness of what can be a frightening experience.

Holiday Heart Syndrome is blamed, in part, for a spike in emergency room visits during the holiday season. It causes an arrhythmia, which is when the heart beats chaotically and often much faster than normal.

If you experience the symptoms, stop drinking alcohol and sit down. The situation usually resolves on its own, but coughing and drinking cold water may reset the heart’s rhythm.

In some cases, HHS can trigger a real heart attack.

“You get very light-headed and dizzy, you can get short of breath, you can get chest pain,” Dr. Brooks said,  “and the next step is speed dial 911.”

Heavy meals can compound the heart problems.

Experts say whether food or alcohol, the best way to try to avoid Holiday Heart Syndrome is to practice moderation.

Posted by: Steve | December 22, 2011

Touching holiday story

Mother Gave Birth, Then Nearly Died of Rare Condition

|  Wednesday, Dec 21, 2011  |  Updated 7:49 PM CST

 A Rockwall mother is looking at Christmas differently this year because she says she’s lucky to be alive.

Whitney Davis, 33, suffered what doctors call one of the most dangerous health conditions. Her aorta, the largest artery in the body that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body, ruptured.

Davis felt the sharp pain in her chest after delivering her second child, and a CT scan revealed the potentially deadly tear to her aorta. She was bleeding internally.

Davis was airlifted from Rockwall to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

“I had to keep myself calm because I knew, with every heartbeat, that my insides were tearing open,” said Davis. “So I didn’t know what. I just looked out the window of the helicopter and knew that I was in God’s hands and that He was going to take care of me.”

Her husband was faced with raising their 9-year-old son and newborn baby alone. Davis had just given birth to their premature daughter three days earlier. She had not even held little Willow when she was rushed into emergency surgery.

“That is a highly lethal lesion. And I’m somewhat surprised she wasn’t killed instantaneously from that,” said Dr. Mark Pool, her heart surgeon at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas.

Pool successfully repaired Davis’ torn aorta and got a thank you card from her son, Carson, for saving his mom’s life.

“Dr. Pool, he made me want to be a doctor. And I’m just happy my mom is here,” Carson said through tears.

The Davis family calls it a Christmas miracle. Now Davis can hold baby Willow and celebrate Christmas with her entire family.

“It’s the most special Christmas that we’ve had. And you go through something like this, you learn very quickly what’s important,” said Whitney’s husband Chad Davis.

More Information About Aortic Dissection

People with high blood pressure are most at risk for aortic dissection.

In Davis’ case, her pregnancy caused high blood pressure. But in more and more other cases, doctors say obesity is making the rare medical condition more common.

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