Going Red for Women & Encouraging Heart Health For Us All

Many patients who have survived a heart attack realize how important it is to have a reliable hospital that’s close to home. At Penn Highlands Healthcare, as we recruit physicians and invest in technology to continue to offer the highest-quality and most advanced services to residents in North Central/Western Pennsylvania, we also continue to raise the bar on our best-known areas of care. One of the areas for which many patients have turned to us is the Heart Center.

Over this past year as we’ve maintained our standards of excellence, we’ve asked patients and our entire communities to join us in adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. Within our health system, we’ve done a great deal of that ourselves—not only in establishing COVID-19 precautions, but to ensure we continue to deliver on our commitment to service excellence. With the end of this month marking a year since the pandemic first began, these past 12 months have been tough for most everyone. Even so, for patients who need us—especially those who have experienced emergency medical events such as a heart attack—we remain committed to providing the best possible care.

Heather Franci, assistant chief nursing officer at Penn Highlands DuBois and service line director of the Heart Center/Cardiology, Lung Center & Neuro-Science Center says that not only does the Heart Center team focus on patients while they’re admitted; they also remain active in patients’ recovery after they go home. During the pandemic, Franci says, “We still provide exercise programs and diet and nutritional education to them, but we have also tailored that so they can do it at home.” She adds that patients’ followup care has been made more convenient by the fact that in some cases, Medicare now enables patients to receive their rehabilitative care virtually. She explains this “has allowed some patients to transition from outpatient cardiac rehabilitation to home care, where they can care for themselves and keep up their regimen.”

An interesting point, Franci says, is that even with this convenience, some Heart Center patients have actually preferred to stick with their in-person rehabilitation routine because of the experience they get from it—not least of which is the sense of encouragement and partnership they feel from being around the healthcare staff or others who are working on their wellness. “For some patients, it’s social,” she says. For example, Penn Highlands Brookville has a lot of patients who utilize the hospital’s adult exercise program, whereas in other Penn Highlands communities, some patients find the local YMCA to be a motivating space.

Franci also highlights a crucial point that should be near to many, well, hearts: Friday’s Go Red for Women observance was an important reminder of the prevalence of heart disease in women. “Maybe that hasn’t been promoted as much because the COVID pandemic has overshadowed it some,” she says. “We can’t lose track of that; we need to continue to bring awareness to this. Go Red for Women is celebrated because of the national statistics on heart disease in women.

It’s still the number-one killer of women, more than all cancers combined.”

Franci says the key recommendation healthcare professionals make is for patients to consult with their physicians to get their diet and exercise habits in check. She also suggests that for patients hoping to prevent cardiac events, as well as those who are recovering from one, the American Heart Association’s website can be a great resource at www.AHA.org.

Finally, excerpted from the winter issue of the Penn Highlands e-magazine, HealthLines, here are three tips you can begin today to ensure better heart health for the rest of your life:

  • Call your primary care provider’s office to make sure your annual checkup is scheduled.
  • If you’re a smoker, look into an annual lung screening at Penn Highlands for insights about your cardiopulmonary health.
  • It’s not too late to seek help with your New Year’s weight loss and healthy eating resolutions. Inquire about Dr. Kavita Goyal’s “Choose to Lose” program by contacting Missy Hill, Program Coordinator at [email protected].