Methodist panel promotes community heart health: ‘A matter of life and death’ - September 22, 2017

Courtesy of Post-Tribune
Written by Meredith Colias

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s experience with heart disease became personal when her steelworker father died three decades ago.

Only 57, the cause was a massive heart attack, she said.

Earlier that day, when she “left the house, told him I was going somewhere,” Freeman-Wilson said, “and when I got back later that afternoon, he was gone; no warning.”

Her daughter, born after his death, never got the chance to meet him, she said.

Pressing for the need to address cardiovascular health, particularly for African-Americans, Methodist Hospitals held a health care panel Friday at the Genesis Center.

The discussion — a collaboration with the Association of Black Cardiologists — centered on the need to address gaps in preventative care and early detection.

“This isn’t really some type of theoretical exercise that we’re talking about,” Freeman-Wilson said. “This is literally a matter of life and death.”

Methodist Director of Trauma Services Dr. Reuben Rutland said the focus should be on pushing early detection and changing how at-risk patients primarily access care.

“Prevention is going to be a big thing that we are going to have to push,” he said. That meant a “shift toward preventative care, rather than going to the emergency room.”

Panelists also included attorney Myra Selby, state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, Dr. Andre Atris, head of Methodist’s Heart and Vascular Institute, Rev. Dr. David Neville, Methodist’s director of Spiritual Care, Denise Dillard, Methodist’s senior consultant for government and external affairs, and Ronald Williams, director of Addiction Services at Edgewater Systems for Balanced Living.

Freeman-Wilson said the city government had a role to “facilitate” information and wider access to care in Gary. According to a Community Health Needs Assessment released by Methodist in 2016, heart disease is the leading cause of death in Lake County.

It stated 186.9 per 100,000 people died of heart disease in Lake County, compared to 170.5 nationally, according to 2015 figures cited in the report.

After heart disease, other leading causes of death are cancers (186.5), chronic lower respiratory disease (46.6), stroke (43.4) and diabetes (29.6).

Asked to rank local public health threats, respondents at Methodist Northlake in Gary listed heart disease after diabetes, obesity, substance abuse and mental health.

Those surveyed at Methodist Southlake in Merrillville listed heart disease after obesity, cancer and diabetes.

Within Gary, 38.7 percent of patients lived in poverty and 21.6 percent had no insurance, the report said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1999 and 2013 about 610,000 people died of heart disease each year in the United States. Of those, 370,000 people died of coronary heart disease.

Leading risk factors included smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Additional factors were diabetes, obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise and excessive alcohol consumption.

About 15 percent of people who have a heart attack die, according to the CDC. Nearly 47 percent of deaths happened outside of a hospital. As a result, the agency encouraged people to act on early warning signs of heart disease.

Symptoms of a heart attack include chest pain, discomfort that lasts for a few minutes and returns, upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea, a cold sweat or light-headedness.