Heart Hospital of Austin Offers Heart Screenings For Students During American Heart Month

In honor of American Heart Month, Heart Hospital of Austin offers free heart screenings to students ages 14 through 18 each February. Screenings include a 12-lead electrocardiogram (EKG) and a limited two-dimensional echocardiogram, or ultrasound of the heart, to detect hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). More than 100 students were screened during our screening this month—which, coincidentally, was on Valentine’s Day!

HCM is a serious genetic heart condition in which the heart muscles thicken. HCM—the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes—affects one in 500 student athletes each year, often with no warning or precursory symptoms. Although the disease is relatively easy to detect, it can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated.

During the heart screening, an EKG and echocardiogram, which take about five minutes each, are used to test heart healthiness, and a cardiologist reviews results immediately after the tests are administered.

If your child missed an opportunity to get tested this month, the hospital also offers free heart screenings to student athletes each August—just as school is about to begin and sports ramp back up. Stay tuned for more information on our August heart screenings.

A Stress Test Could Save Your Life

For Heart Hospital of Austin patient Melissa Baethge, a stress test may have saved her life. Baethge is a wife, mother to three children and an active individual. On her 49th birthday, she celebrated with her colleagues, but when she returned to her office, she experienced shortness of breath and pressure in her chest. After a while, most of her symptoms subsided; however, she still felt a weight on her chest and opted to schedule an appointment the next day with her general physician.

Her physician recommended she conduct an electrocardiogram (EKG), and she was referred to Stanley Wang, M.D., a clinical cardiologist at Heart Hospital of Austin. Dr. Wang reviewed her EKG and ordered blood work—both of which gave him cause for concern. Three days later, Baethge conducted an exercise stress test in Dr. Wang’s office. The test gathers information about how your heart works during physical activity, and it usually involves walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike while your heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing are monitored.

During this test, Baethge experienced a heart attack and was rushed to Heart Hospital of Austin, where a stent was placed in one of her arteries with a critical 90 percent blockage. If she had experienced a heart attack of this nature anywhere else, she likely would not have survived.

Now a heart attack survivor, Baethge’s mission is to educate women about the warning signs of a heart attack. She is an advocate of heart screenings, and she is the American Heart Association’s 2015 Featured Survivor. As a result of her advocacy, a HeartSaver CT revealed an underlying cardiac issue in one of her sisters.

To calculate your risk of developing a cardiovascular disease, or to contact Heart Hospital of Austin to learn more about tests available to measure your heart health, please visit HeartHospitalofAustin.com.

KVUE-TV (ABC) recently spoke with Baethge to learn more about her treatment and recovery. To watch her story, please click here.

Additionally, KTBC-TV (FOX) spoke with Baethge. To view that interview, please click here.

Symptoms and Prevention of Heart Attacks

As the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States, heart disease claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined—one death every 39 seconds. Because of this staggering statistic, it’s important to understand potential causes and symptoms of a heart attack.

The heart is a muscle and needs oxygen to survive. Atherosclerosis is a slow process whereby plaque—a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other materials—builds within the walls of arteries and can limit the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. This plaque can remain stable for many years, and depending on the amount of plaque, it may or may not limit blood flow to the heart muscle. However, plaque can become unstable, causing a sudden blood clot to form, blocking the flow of blood to the heart and starving it of oxygen and nutrients. This is called ischemia. When ischemia occurs suddenly—causing damage or death to part of the heart muscle—it is called a myocardial infarction (MI) or heart attack.

As with many diseases, being aware of possible risk factors is the best prevention. Medical conditions highly correlated with heart attacks include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, diabetes, obesity and being overweight.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), prevention of a heart attack begins at age 20. While not all heart attacks can be prevented, there are precautionary measures that can be taken to decrease the risk of a heart attack, including not smoking; limiting unhealthy fats and cholesterol; knowing your family medical history and high-risk medical conditions; eating a healthy diet; exercising regularly; managing stress; and visiting your doctor regularly.

For more information on heart attack prevention and treatment, visit the AHA’s website at Heart.org.

Sources: American Heart Association (AHA), Go Red for Women

6,000 Steps Closer to Heart Health

Approximately 85.6 million Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of stroke.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), studies show that stroke survivors who take 6,000 or more steps a day are more likely to remain stroke and vascular-event free than those who walk less than 6,000 steps daily. Additionally, researchers found that stroke survivors who had significantly lower daily step counts were more likely to experience additional vascular events such as stroke, heart attack and blocked arteries.

By boosting activity level following a stroke, survivors may decrease their risk of future strokes and heart attacks. For a stroke survivor, this news is especially important, as the chances of having another stroke increase after your first episode.

The key is physical activity. Physical activity is not just a safe practice; it’s part of the recovery plan. Whether you’re hitting the recommended 6,000 steps per day, or accomplishing a higher goal, it’s important to engage yourself as best you can.

Remember: Start gently, build slowly and always consult with your physician before you begin an exercise plan.

Joseph M. Szczytowski, D.O., medical director of Cardiac Rehab at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center

Sources: American Stroke Association (ASA), American Heart Association (AHA)

Physicians at TCAI Perform Cardiac Ablation Without Radiation

On Jan. 9, 2015, Rodney Horton, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist at the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute (TCAI) at St. David’s Medical Center, performed a live case during which he completed a complex cardiac ablation without the use of fluoroscopy (or radiation). The procedure, which was showcased for the first time during the 20th international AF Symposium in Orlando, Florida, gained significant interest, as limiting radiation exposure to patients and medical staff is of increasing importance.

Physicians and researchers at TCAI pioneered this approach by combining existing mapping technology with the unique advantages of an energy-assisted transseptal needle to perform an entire complex ablation procedure without the need for fluoroscopic visualization. This more fully utilized the commercially available technology, along with some connection modifications to achieve greater performance.

As a result of this novel approach, manufacturers worked with TCAI to develop an FDA-approved device to allow other physicians to accomplish what some TCAI physicians have already been doing for more than a year.

Anticoagulants and Fall Risk

An anticoagulant is a commonly prescribed medication that prevents clotting of the blood. Anticoagulants can be prescribed if a person’s blood clots too much, forcing blood vessels to be blocked and leading to conditions such as a stroke or a heart attack. Deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms and atrial fibrillation are all common conditions in which an anticoagulant can be prescribed.

174117327No matter how minor or serious, there are always risks that come with taking prescription drugs—but the most serious risk for anticoagulants is falls in senior citizens. Elderly patients with balance problems are at high risk for falls. When these same patients are also on anticoagulants, the consequences of a fall can be serious. Anticoagulants can increase the risk of a cerebral hemorrhage, and even the mildest of head trauma can cause a fatal cerebral hemorrhage. A person who has a previous history of falls should consider another prescription drug. The risk of falls alone should not automatically disqualify a person from being treated with an anticoagulant, but it is something to think about.

As with any prescription medicine, make sure to talk to your doctor about the drug before you begin taking it. Do not be afraid to voice your questions or concerns, and make sure to follow the dosage instructions carefully—and watch your balance!

Michael L. Craun, M.D., F.A.C.S., is the trauma medical director at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center

Healthy Eating for the Super Bowl

Super Bowl Sunday can be full of buffalo wings, chips, queso and six-foot long sandwiches, all of which can lead to extra calories and extra pounds. The good news is that with a few changes, you can decrease the fat and calories and increase the healthiness of your game day feast without sacrificing taste:

super bowl

101110654It’s always a good idea to have a fruit and/or vegetable tray available for those who are vegetarian or just for low-calorie snacking. Use low fat yogurt-based dips or try using ricotta cheese mixed with dry onion soup mix or salsa. If you have a favorite food or snack, allow yourself to partake, but choose a smaller version of it and avoid “seconds.” Always be mindful of portion sizes.

Keeping your distance farther away from the food is also helpful. Drinking eight ounces of water and eating an apple before going to a party will help fill you up and take an edge off your hunger.

Whether you are tailgating at the stadium or “tablegating” in your living room, it’s easy to keep game day food fun, tasty and healthy. Most importantly, though, remember that it is about the camaraderie and the love of the game, not the food. Consider having your own game of touch football during halftime to burn off those extra calories!


Practice these easy and tasty substitutions to help you stay healthy during Super Bowl weekend.

By Valerie Shurley, M.S., R.D./L.D.
Valerie Shurley is the clinical nutrition manager at St. David’s Georgetown Hospital.

Proper Posture Tips to Reduce Back Pain

If you are anything like me, your mother told you to stand up straight and hold your shoulders back when you were young (maybe she still does today!). As we age, it is important that we start thinking about our posture again.


Think about how many hours each day we spend looking down at our phones, typing at our computers and sitting in nice, soft recliners all evening – they’re countless! It is important that we start to reverse years of hunching over and learn how to stand up straight.

Correct posture will keep your spine erect and decrease neck and back pain. Correct posture will also allow us to breathe more deeply, ensuring we are bringing in all of the oxygen our body needs. Here are some tips to help keep posture a part of your daily routine:

  • Pick a door in your home (whether it is the door to your living room, bathroom, or bedroom), and each time you walk by back up to the door, lift your chest up and touch your shoulders and head to the door. Hold this pose for 10 seconds and repeat 5-6 times per day.
  • When you are sitting at a red light, lift your chest up and touch the back of your head to the headrest of your car.
  • When you are going to bed, lie on your back without a pillow for 10 minutes.
  • When you are on your phone reading your email or playing games, take a break every 15 minutes to lift your chest up and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • When you are working at your desk on your computer, stand up every hour. Lift your chest up, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and lift your arms over your head, alternating arms for one minute.
  • Place a small pillow behind your lower back when you are sitting in a recliner or riding in a car. If your car has built in lumbar support, consider using that.

The most important thing to remember is to move. Our bodies are not made to sit still for prolonged periods of time. Lift your chest up, keep your shoulders back, and keep moving for a long, pain free life.

Lynelle Evans, PT
Outpatient Rehab Supervisor
St. Davids Rehabilitation Hospital

St David’s Stay Merry Tips for Christmas

St. David’s HealthCare wishes everyone a very happy and healthy holiday season. Here are some tips to keep in mind from St. David’s HealthCare’s director of employer wellness solutions, Kathryn Scoblick.

Plan ahead = planning for peace and less stress

Knowing what your week looks like ahead of time helps you plan how to tackle it. Have a plan for the week and then reevaluate for each day the night before. Decide on your priorities and stick with them the best you can. People in true need of your time come first, even if it is not scheduled on your list. Enjoy the progress, and check off your list throughout the day. Focus on the moment and the joy of achieving.

Plan to ask for help

It is OK to ask for help! It is more fun for all involved because helping one another fulfills our purpose. On the flip side, people will offer their help and it is an act of kindness for you to take the offer. Studies show that Serotonin, the feel good neurotransmitter, is released when we help each other. Studies show that both the giver of help and the receiver get a boost of Serotonin.

Plan for moderation and for moderation in moderation…sometimes

Moderation in all things is a good practice. Too much of anything cannot possibly be good. On occasion, the freedom to enjoy something a little more than you typically would is also a healthy choice. Health and safety first and enjoy the moment. ‘Tis the season!

Plan for water all day…and night
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. We are 70% water and so is the earth. We run on water and need it to think properly and feel good. In a season filled with festivities and spirits, it is even more important that we hydrate well. It will keep headaches at bay and keep you feeling well.

Plan to go easy with alcohol

‘Tis the season to drink more than we normally would. Make sure you limit your intake. If you are attending a party, make sure you have a designated driver. In addition, have water within reach to sip on that instead of alcohol all night. That extra water will keep away the groggy feeling the next morning.

Plan to choose the right snacks…even before a party

‘Tis the season to eat more than we normally would. A good strategy is not to go to a party too hungry. Instead, plan a healthy snack before you leave for the party such as ¼ cup of hummus and carrots, or a small apple and a handful of nuts. Having a healthy snack will keep you from indulging on too many of the wrong foods at the party (like what we find in the way of less healthy appetizers and an abundance of sweets). For example, you might consider deciding ahead of time to only have one small dessert. 

Plan for exercise
This will keep you on top of the world and feeling strong, stress free and energetic. Ask anybody who exercises regularly how they feel after they exercise. My guess is the feeling is what keeps them coming back for more. It is always a good time to create a good habit…even in the busy season.

Plan for enough sleep

Count on it! The weeks will be busy and chances are you are burning the candle at both ends. Not getting enough sleep can compromise your ability to manage stress and cope with the diminishing holiday timeline. Do the best you can. You feel better, cope better, think better and all is better when you are rested. 7-8 hours each night is the recommendation. Strive for that. Make small adjustments where you can. Planning ahead helps with everything.

Plan to get up and move
There is nothing like a brisk walk in the middle of a busy day to get that blood flowing to the brain. It will energize you, give you a healthy break and have you ready to tackle the next task.

Plan for time off

Anticipation is proven in some studies to bring more joy than the actual event. We feel good having things to look forward to. Plan time off and enjoy the before, during and after.

Plan to be with friends and family

Being with friends and family are what the holidays are all about. Sharing the joy of the season is the best part. The hard work pays off. The reward is being with those you love.

Plan to help others…and even when it is not planned

Charity is always (especially during this season) a beautiful thing. However, just like any other day, people come first; no matter what your plans. We all need each other and it is inevitable that a time will come when you need help as well. Lend a hand, spread the joy and enjoy the season.


Facility Ranked Among Nation’s 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals

St. David’s Medical Center, including Heart Hospital of Austin, was recently named among the nation’s 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals® by Truven Health Analytics.

St. David’s Medical Center, including Heart Hospital of Austin, is one of two Texas hospitals selected from more than 1,000 hospitals in the United States to earn this designation, and it is the only non-teaching hospital in Texas to be recognized this year.

To identify the 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals, Truven Health Analytics researchers analyzed 2012 and 2013 Medicare Provider Analysis and Review (MedPAR) data, 2013 Medicare cost reports, and 2014 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Hospital Compare data.

According to Truven Health Analytics, if all cardiovascular providers in the nation performed at the level of this year’s winners, nearly 9,500 additional lives could be saved; more than $1 billion could be saved; and more than 3,000 additional bypass and angioplasty patients could be complication-free.

This is the second year St. David’s Medical Center has received this honor.

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