News & Events

February Lecture Luncheon - Heart Healthy

March 7, 2016

Lifelong management, heart-healthy lifestyle focus of ACH luncheon lecture

By SHANNON HARSH - The Alliance Review, Published: March 2, 2016 3:00 AM

Stephanie Boyd, director of Aultman Heart Center at Alliance Community Hospital (ACH), has plenty of experience in cardiac care, but it became even more important to her when her father had to have emergency open heart surgery.

"I'm very passionate about cardiac care. I was before that event, and now I'm even more passionate about taking care of people and sharing the knowledge I have to make people live a healthier life," she told a packed conference room of attendees during the hospital's luncheon lecture held Friday.

She shared the American Heart Association has a campaign called "Life is Why" that asks people to identify what makes them live a healthy life or what makes them want to change to a healthy lifestyle.

She said her family is her why.

During a talk on "Heart Failure Care," Boyd discussed what the condition is, how it is diagnosed and how it is treated.

She led with an explanation of the normal healthy heart and how it functions before diving into the issue of heart failure -- which is when the heart becomes weak and can no longer pump enough blood and oxygen out to the rest of the body.

"It causes the heart to work harder with each heartbeat and each pump," she described. "As it weakens, each force of contraction has to require more work than it once did. So as the heart loses its pumping power, blood backs up, causing symptoms."

Boyd shared symptoms can include shortness of breath, swelling in the ankles/legs, bloating in the abdomen, sudden weight gain of 2-3 pounds in one day or 5 pounds in one week, a dry, hacking cough, lack of appetite and trouble lying flat to sleep.

She said when heart failure sets in the heart can triple in size and noted it usually affects the left ventricle.

According to Boyd, there are three types of heart failure:

Systolic heart failure -- When the left ventricle weakens and loses the ability to pump effectively and becomes large and floppy.

Diastolic heart failure -- When the left ventricle weakens and loses the ability to relax and fill and becomes stiff and rigid.

Right ventricular heart failure -- Which comes as a result of the left side failure in the advanced stages of heart failure progression.

Boyd shared there are different classes of heart failure based on the symptoms and the activity the patient can tolerate daily.

Class I -- There are no physical activity limitations, and the patient may not even realize they have it, as they aren't exhibiting symptoms that would take them to the doctor.

Class II -- There are slight physical limitations as people may notice they can't do as much without getting tired.

Class III -- There are moderate limitations with ordinary activity, causing fatigue. This is often the stage that brings people to their doctor.

Class IV -- There are physical activity limitations and fatigue at rest.

She went over some of the causes of heart failure, which include coronary artery disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, congenital heart problems, thyroid disease and diabetes.

"Because you have one of these, it doesn't mean you have heart failure or will develop heart failure," she said, adding that research has shown they can be a precursor to the development of heart failure.

Boyd went over the number of tests involved in diagnosing heart failure, but noted symptoms are the most important part of diagnosis. "All those symptoms are what's going to take you to the doctor for us to do further testing," she said. "So the most important tool that we have is for patients and their family members to be aware of what symptoms come along with heart failure."

She noted heart failure is a progressively worsening condition that requires lifelong management and treatment. "This is lifelong management," she explained. "It requires lifelong medications that you never stop. It requires lifestyle changes that never end either. Because there is no known treatment for it, we can manage the symptoms, but we can't make the heart failure go away."

In addition to medications, she said treatment involves a heart-healthy diet, increased activity, managing stress, limiting alcohol and smoking cessation. In later stages, implanted cardiac devices may be used.

She ended with some surprising trivia that showed how much sodium was in a few food options. She stressed the importance of reading food labels and looking for low-sodium options.

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