In 2019, more than 13 percent of Hoosiers age 65 or older were diagnosed with heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Community Healthcare System works with those Hoosiers every day and noticed that many are lacking critical knowledge about heart health and all of the medical resources available to them. In response, they organized an annual Cardiovascular Research Symposium which they hosted again this Wednesday.
“Heart disease impacts the body in so many ways, like causing strokes or sleep apnea,” said Tera Gagne, Cardiovascular Research Nurse Manager for Community Healthcare System and lead organizer of the symposium. “There are just so many things that can go wrong, the public needs more information. We have providers who can help.”
An array of Community Healthcare System professionals offered free screenings for various aspects of cardiovascular health, while other vendors offered information about essential services. Then, attendees gathered to hear presentations from four different doctors about a wide variety of topics.
“I’ve done a lot of events like this in the past and so many people just don’t understand their risk,” said Sarah Alexander, MD, a cardiologist for Community Healthcare System. “They don’t know that they have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. Sometimes people don’t initially feel comfortable in a medical setting, but here it’s all public and you might come with family or friends. It helps people stay relaxed and comfortable while learning about their risk factors and what they need to act on.”
Alexander discussed how calcium scoring, a type of non-invasive CT scan, can be used to assess heart health. Interventional Cardiologists Dean Ferrera, DO, and David Stewart, MD, and Electrophysiologist Pratik Patel, MD, presented topics such as managing coronary artery disease, sleep apnea, and atrial fibrillation. Interventional Cardiologist Samer Abbas, MD, moderated the discussions.
“Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death both in the U.S. and worldwide,” Alexander said. “People often forget about that, but it’s on the rise, especially in younger women. We need to increase public understanding of their risk.”
Events like the symposium can even have a lifesaving impact in some cases.
“I saw a patient at another symposium we held in the fall, she was in atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat,” Gagne said. “She wasn’t taking any medication and she wasn’t seeing her doctor. I got her name, contacted her physician and we got her on medication. I actually saw her here today, she’s still taking her meds and keeping informed with her doctor. Stories like that are what make me happy.”
Attendance for this year’s symposium almost doubled from last year, packing The Center for Visual and Performing Arts to near capacity.
“We’re happy to be here and provide this resource,” said Karin Woodside, Community Outreach Specialist for Community Healthcare System. “We want people to have their questions answered and to learn what’s out there so that they can live happier, healthier lives.” To learn more about Community Healthcare System, visit www.COMHS.org.