The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

February 28, 2013

Region’s pulse on heart health

Many options at facilities close to home

— As we come to the end of February – which is American Heart Month – it’s a good time to reflect on how lucky we are to have quality health care in our region.

Reporter Randy Griffith has spent the month chronicling what our local health care leaders are doing to extend not just lives, but also the quality of those lives. Whether it’s the Conemaugh Health System, Windber Medical Center or Somerset Hospital, patients can get heart healthy close to home.

Of course, cardiac experts will tell you that the best way to fight heart disease is to take preventive steps to avoid it in the first place. Not surprisingly, the biggest recommendations from doctors are an exercise program and a healthy diet.

“The reality of heart disease is that a tremendous part of it is preventable,” said Dr. James Tretter, a vascular surgeon at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown. “Physical activity and diet are tremendously important. We need to start with our kids in prevention.”

Other risk factors, which can be controlled to varying degrees, include tobacco use, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Others, such as family history, age and gender, can’t be controlled.

There also are steps that can be taken to undo some of the damage that has already been done.

Windber Research Institute’s Cardiovascular Risk Clinic has grown out of the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease, but it’s a bit easier for patients to follow than the Ornish program.

“This is easier to adapt,” said Darrell Ellsworth, senior director for the Cardiovascular Disease Reversal project. “It is not as strict as the Ornish program.”

Like preventive care, cardiac rehab focuses on diet, exercise and education. Memorial Medical Center, Windber Medical Center and Somerset Hospital each provides services to minimize the effects of heart disease and reduce the risk of heart problems. But when problems become more serious, heart health care is available locally.

Somerset does interventional cardiology in its cardiac cath lab, including angioplasty and stent placement.

Conemaugh provides a full range of cardiac services, from interventional cardiology to open-heart surgery. The newest addition to the Johnstown center is the electrophysiology lab.

“Electrophysiology involves medical treatment of irregular heartbeats,  abnormal heart rhythms and related conditions,” Dr. Genevieve Brumberg, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Memorial Medical Center, told Griffith.

Brumberg is just part of the Conemaugh Physicians Group’s new location for cardiac outpatient care and follow-up visits at Conemaugh Medical Park in the Kernville section of Johnstown.

“I think the patients really love this office,” she said of the former Greater Johnstown Tech Park. “They are able to come here and get all their cardiac care under one roof.”

Our region truly is fortunate to have so many health care options so close to home.

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