Dr. Stanley Berger and Dr. Gerald DeVaughn of the Cardiology Medical Associates are working to educate people on the importance of their heart health.
“Our mission here at Cardiology Medical Associates is to reach as many people as we can in this community and both educate and evaluate and provide appropriate treatment as needed for whatever heart ailments we might identify,” says Berger, who serves as vice president of CMA and chief of the cardiology division at Mercy Philadelphia Hospital.
For those who have never been evaluated for heart problems, Berger says it’s important to have a discussion with a primary care physician to determine whether or not they need to be screened for a possible heart ailment by a cardiologist.
“The story that you tell the physician is really, critically important because it really shapes how we approach evaluating you for a potential heart problem,” says Berger.
He says people who have a family history of heart disease, or those experiencing symptoms such as chest heaviness, shortness of breath, and a pain that goes down the arm, should be evaluated for potential problems.
“It is a silent killer. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death for both men and women,” stressed Berger.
During a presentation at the American Heart Association’s Silent No More conference recently held in Philadelphia, Berger recounted the story of a female patient who suddenly collapsed at home and was taken to the emergency department, where she was resuscitated and placed on a breathing machine. She had a complete blockage of the major artery that runs down the front of the heart. She ultimately required a stent, a tube that is used to open blocked arteries. The patient hadn’t had any major factors for heart disease.
“We want to stress that this is an important part of the uncertainty; not everyone has the same risks or the same symptoms — and this is what makes it so important just to get some evaluation initially,” says Berger, who runs CMA with Dr. Gerald DeVaughn.
At CMA’s West Philadelphia-based offices, heart ailments can be detected through the use of echocardiography, ultrasound of the heart, cardiac catheterization and stress testing. The medical practice also offers a heart monitoring program where patients are sent home with a device that monitors their heart rhythms.
In addition to providing patient consultants and testing for heart conditions, CMA’s specialists provide coronary bypass surgery and evaluation for pacemaker implants.
CMA’s focus on heart health comes at a time when October marks Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month. SCA occurs when a person’s heart just suddenly stops. According to the American Heart Association sudden cardiac is considered the leading cause of death in the United States. The majority of patients die because they do not receive life-saving defibrillation within four to six minutes. Symptoms of SCA can include fainting, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pains and a racing heart rate.
There are various conditions that can lead to SCA including coronary heart disease, a heart attack, enlarged heart or cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease and irregular heart rhythms.
SCA is regarded as the number one killer of student athletes nationwide.
CMA recently partnered with Mercy Hospital of Philadelphia to host a screening for student athletes at a local high school. During the process, students were asked standard questions such as whether they have a family history of heart disease or history of elevated blood pressure, having a heart murmur and other findings that would raise suspicion of heart disease.
As a part of the screening process, the student athletes received echocardiograms, or a 12-lead EKG, a test that records the electrical activity of the heart. The test is used to measure the rate and regularity of heartbeats, as well as the size and position of the chambers, the presence of any damage to the heart, and the effects of drugs or devices used to regulate the heart.
“We feel that these kinds of screenings are important because they could lead to the indication of a problem that wasn’t previously recognized,” Berger says.
There has been some controversy surrounding the use of EKGs to test student athletes.
In May, Gov. Tom Corbett signed a law that requires student athletes who exhibit warning signs of sudden cardiac arrest to be pulled from play until they can be cleared by a doctor or nurse practitioner. The law also mandates that public school coaches undergo annual training on the condition.