American Heart Month: Identifying, Educating, and Intervening for Better Heart Health

February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness of the importance of cardiovascular health and the risks of heart disease, and to promote the development of lifelong heart-healthy habits.

Every year more than 600,000 Americans die from heart disease. Over the last year, Engooden care navigators have helped patients monitor their heart health, educated patients on available resources and healthy habits, recognized early signs and symptoms of a stroke or heart attack, and made life-saving interventions. Here are a few stand-out stories in honor of American Heart Month:

A Life-Saving Intervention
Last month, I contacted this patient for a monthly outreach call and immediately noticed something was wrong. During our previous calls he was very full of life, but on this call his speech was much slower and he didn’t seem like himself. Like most calls, I started by asking how he was doing. I immediately sensed hesitation in his voice; he just kept saying he felt off and weak. I asked a few more questions and he revealed he had weakness in his left arm, facial drooping, along with slurring of his speech. I continued to ask him simple questions and decided to contact EMS. During my contact with EMS, his line disconnected, and I was not able to get back in touch with him.

When I spoke with the patient today, he thanked me for reaching out to him that day. Something pushed me to call him, and he said he will forever be thankful. Unfortunately, he ended up having both a stroke and a NSTEMI (non-ST-elevation myocardial infarction), and was transferred from the ER to another hospital. After everything he has been through, he said as soon as he recognized that it was my number on his phone, his spirit came back, and he felt so much more uplifted. He said he truly looks forward to our calls every month and enjoys every outreach and wouldn't know what to do without us watching over his shoulder from afar.

Importance of Monitoring Heart Health
During my first call of the day, I asked my patient if he could check his blood pressure while we were on the phone, and his reading was very high. I asked him how he felt, and he stated he felt fine and didn’t have shortness of breath or dizziness. He reassured me everything was normal, and that his blood pressure has been this high off and on. I asked the patient if he could tell me what his heart rate was, and he responded with a lower-than-normal number. He reassured me again that this heart rate was normal for him. As our conversation continued, I had him recheck his blood pressure and he gave me another high reading. I immediately started to worry for my patient. I made a call to his doctor’s office and scheduled a transthoracic echocardiogram (TE).

During the call with the doctor’s office, his doctor told me the patient needed to go to the ER, and quickly called my patient to let him know. My patient ended up being seen at the ER with concerns of high blood pressure. I'm glad I called him and called his doctor as well – my patient was unaware of how dangerous his vitals were and thought all was normal. It made me feel so good that I could educate my patient and quickly get him the help he needed.

Heart Attack Prevention
Before a monthly outreach call with one of my patients, I saw in the electronic medical record that he was in the emergency department over the weekend with high blood pressure. The patient and his primary care physician have been working for a few months now to get his blood pressure regulated. He was put on a new medication at the end of the month, and he was monitoring his blood pressure at home for a week or two, but then stopped monitoring it because he said everything was fine. When I called him for our monthly outreach call, he said that he wasn't taking the medication anymore because he was doing good. I encouraged him to keep monitoring his blood pressure to ensure that the medication was working. He took my advice and continued monitoring it.

During our next outreach call, he told me that his blood pressure was climbing. A few days later, his blood pressure was extremely elevated. It was so high that he thought the machine had broken, so he went and bought a new one, but received a similar reading. He decided to go to the emergency room. Luckily, he did not have a stroke or a heart attack. They told him to increase his nighttime blood pressure medication and the next night his blood pressure had lowered. I told him to keep monitoring and logging his blood pressure and helped him schedule a follow-up appointment with his PCP. Because he didn’t have any hypertension symptoms, I wonder what may have happened if he didn't take my advice to continue monitoring his blood pressure.

Taking care of your heart health and your patients heart health should always be a priority, not just during American Heart Month. Reach out to us here if you’d like to learn how Engooden can help.