On a mission

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Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief of cardiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and associate director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. | Supplied photo

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At Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, the goal is for cardiac patients to achieve health-success by returning to their regular activities but with an enhanced quality of life, armed with knowledge. But the ultimate goal of the hospital is to prevent heart disease from happening in the first place.

“Prevention of heart disease is the highest goal we can offer the communities we serve,” said Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief of cardiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and associate director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. “Though it is exciting to discuss our cutting edge work in heart transplantation, heart valve disease, heart attack care and management of irregular heart rhythms, the greater good we can accomplish is through prevention.”

The Center for Preventive Cardiology offers an assortment of programs, lead by an entire team of expert physicians and nurses that dynamically treat at-risk patients, to prevent heart disease and improve and manage overall cardiac health. 

“At the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, we have developed one of the leading heart disease prevention programs in the country,” Yancy said. “Physician leaders within the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute are not only thought leaders in the field but also write the important statements governing prevention strategies for the entire country and perform the seminal research that sets the bar for which prevention strategies work best.”

The Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute is dedicated to reducing the quandary of heart disease.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” Yancy said. “Getting started is always the tough part with prevention; we make it simple: ‘eat less, do more, and know your numbers.’ We endorse fully the ‘Simple 7’ steps championed by the American Heart Association as the path towards better health and less heart disease.”

Those Simple 7 steps are:

1. Don’t smoke.

2. Have an appropriate weight.

3. Be physically active.

4. Follow a heart healthy diet.

5. Know your blood sugar.

6. Know your blood pressure.

7. Know your cholesterol values.

What happens if you do get heart disease or experience a heart attack, stroke or some other cardiac event? Many patients feel overwhelmed, understandably, after such an incident and the remedial progression may be slowed by depression, nervousness or stress-common emotional penalties of surgery.

“As many as two out of every five cardiac patients develop clinically depressed moods,” said Kim R. Feingold, Ph.D., founder and director of the Cardiac Behavioral Medicine Service of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute of Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “These patients are less likely to comply with recommended care and are more likely to have serious complications, including re-hospitalization and even reduced survival.”

Dr. Feingold is also the assistant professor of surgery and assistant professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Much of Feingold’s time and energy has been directed toward enhancing the quality of life among cardiac and transplant populations, with scrupulous awareness of the relationship between depression, stress, and heart disease.

“One of our goals in creating S.M.A.R.T. Heart (Stress Management and Recreational Therapy for Heart Patients) was to decrease the emotional burden that can occur following cardiac surgery,” said Feingold, also a licensed clinical psychologist with specialization in cardiac psychology. “We chose an intervention that aims to increase social support, recreation, humor, music and the arts — all of which we believe may help improve healing.”

Patients benefit from the S.M.A.R.T. Heart program through leisure activities, entertainment, professionally recorded relaxation music and social interaction. According to Feingold, patients have reported that these services have reduced pre-operative anxiety and post-operative pain and discomfort.

“They have the opportunity to distract themselves from the stress of being a patient, which we hope will translate into improved mood and a better patient experience,” Feingold said. “When we think about heart surgery, most people envision that you go into the hospital, have surgery and then start to work on the physical recovery. Few people recognize the significant psychological outcomes associated with heart surgery. We value the mind-body connection and our patients benefit from receiving treatment that extends beyond their heart.”

For more information, visit heart.nmh.org or call (312) 664-3278.