Heart Disease Does Not Discriminate

On May 25, 2016 the American Heart Association AHA recognized Divine Savior Healthcare for commitment to the AHA and supporting the education of young children in our community. Lynn Waldera, Director of Preventative Health and Wellness at Divine Savior Healthcare holds the award with Harriet the Heart. Cardiovascular disease, better known as heart disease, has no one set type of symptoms or diagnosis. There are different forms of heart disease that can affect one’s life, at any age. Whether you are diagnosed with heart valve problems, arrhythmia, heart failure, heart attack, or stroke, these are all forms of heart disease and make up one of the nation’s leading causes of death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. About 610,000 people 1 in 4 people in the United States die of heart disease every year.

With these unsettling statistics, it’s important to understand how heart disease affects one’s life and how our community is taking action to help those living with this disease and taking preventative measures to help lower these rates.

Rehab Program

Those diagnosed with heart disease may have the option to participate in a medically prescribed and supervised program right here in the community. This program is called cardiac rehab and is offered at Divine Savior Healthcare. The program is designed to improve the physical and emotional health of people with heart disease as well as decrease the likelihood of a recurring event.

Divine Savior’s cardiac rehab team includes a network of cardiologists, physicians, registered nurses, clinical exercise physiologists, respiratory therapists, dieticians, and pharmacists that work closely together to create the best plan for care to reduce risk for a future cardiac event.

They help patients at many different stages of their heart disease diagnosis, and as Respiratory Therapist, Natashia Peschel attests, “heart disease does not discriminate.”

Natashia states, “We typically see a wide range of patients, ranging from 30 to 90 years of age.”

In most cases, people with a history of, coronary artery disease, heart attack, coronary artery bypass grafting, chronic stable angina, heart valve repair or replacement, coronary angioplasty or coronary stent, heart transplant, congestive heart failure, congenital heart defect repair, or other conditions as determined by your physician may benefit the most from the cardiac rehab program.

Patients in the program are seen in an outpatient setting where rehab therapists educate about patients cardiac risk factors, how to manage risk factors to prevent future events, as well as how to make heart healthy lifestyle changes.

Risk Factors

The key risk factors for heart disease according to the CDC are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking, along with other medical conditions and lifestyle choices such as diabetes, overweight and obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.

Regular exercise and a healthy diet are great lifestyle choices to incorporate when wanting to reduce heart disease risk factors. When considering cardiac rehab, research shows that people who attend cardiac rehab may reduce their risk of a subsequent heart attack by 50% and reduce the chance of mortality by 20-25%. Often, people that participate feel improvement in energy, strength, endurance, and their ability to perform daily activities.

Peschel shares, “I think what we enjoy most is meeting new patients, helping them to establish goals during their initial intake, and then seeing them progress through their sessions and working towards achieving those goals as they go through the program.  We recently had a patient go through the program that admitted during his intake that he didn't like going to doctors or hospitals.  And while he was coming to his sessions he became more and more comfortable and stated to staff "It's like coming home to family when I come here."  Having a patient enjoy coming to their sessions and eager to learn is very rewarding to us as clinicians.”

People participating in cardiac rehab have the opportunity to exercise side-by-side with others that have heart disease, share experiences, and provide additional motivation and support. Family members or significant others are always welcome to attend sessions for further encouragement and support, as recovering from a heart related illness can be life changing for everyone. 

“Like any procedure or injury, recovery takes time," said Lynn Waldera, Director of Preventative Health and Wellness.  "For example, heart attack sufferers need to rest to allow their body to recover and heal.  It is normal for heart attack suffers to feel fear, anxiety, depression, and anger. While these are normal feelings, if they start to disrupt eating, sleeping, or daily involvement with family and friends this should be discussed with a physician. Also, family may feel the same emotions.  There is concern they will lose their loved one, they want to protect them, and often feel guilt they were the cause of the heart attack.”

If you or someone you know is interested in participating in cardiac rehab it is best to discuss this program with either a Cardiologist or Primary Physician first, as a referral to the program from a physician is essential to start the process.

“Entering a cardiac rehabilitation program can help individuals with cardiac disease re-align and change their lifestyle. Programs are designed with the patient to meet their goals, as it is not a one size fits all program.  The goal is to provide education, encourage exercise, and creating independence without fear for those impacted by heart disease,” states Waldera.

For further information, questions or concerns, please contact Divine Savior’s cardiac rehab team at:

Heart Healthy Life for Youth

As stated above, heart disease does not discriminate and can affect anyone at any age. That is why Divine Savior Healthcare has taken the initiative to educate early and raise awareness about living a heart healthy life to youth in the community.

Recently the American Heart Association recognized Divine Savior Healthcare for our commitment to the association and supporting the education of young children in our community. Divine Savior Healthcare collaborates with local school districts and organizations to makes strides at improving wellness initiatives for the youth such as serving on the Portage School District’s Wellness Committee, securing grants through the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, and organizing health literacy workshops. DSH also sponsors the Jump Rope for Heart and Hoops for Heart events, and hosts a Young at Heart Kid’s Health Day and annual Run/Walk event for community members.

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Experiencing a dull pain in the pit of your stomach

Stomach PainGastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, and gallbladder disease are two very common disorders. Knowing which one you have may be trickier than you think. Symptoms may be vague, such as a “dull pain in the pit of your stomach”, making it hard for you to explain to your doctor what’s exactly going on.

At Divine Savior Healthcare, General Surgeons, Dr. Eric Anderson and Dr. Joshua Pogorelec, have seen many patients with these symptoms and after further examination are able to help  diagnose and treat both diseases.

What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease GERD refers to stomach contents moving into the esophagus causing a burning sensation commonly referred to as heartburn. Other symptoms may occur as well, such as pain in the upper abdomen, bloating, nausea and an acid taste in your mouth.  If this continue, prolonged exposure of the esophagus to stomach contents can result in damage to the lining of the esophagus.  This in turn can result in difficulty swallowing, pain with swallowing or permanent damage to the esophagus.

Although not all reflux results in symptoms or damage to the esophagus, common symptoms include:
• Heartburn
• Acid regurgitation
• Belching
• Difficulty or pain when swallowing
• Waterbrash sudden excess of saliva
• Dysphagia the sensation of food sticking in the esophagus
• Chronic sore throat
• Laryngitis
• Inflammation of the gums
• Erosion of the enamel of the teeth
• Chronic irritation in the throat
• Hoarseness in the morning
• A sour taste
• Bad breath
• Coughing at night

What is gallbladder disease?
The gallbladder is located below the liver on the upper right side of the abdomen. The main function of the gallbladder is to store bile, which is made in the liver and allows fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients to be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Any condition that affects the gallbladder is considered a disease, and there are many different scenarios that fall under gallbladder disease:
• Inflammation
• Gallstones
• Common bile duct stones
• Biliary Dyskinesia
• Infection
• Perforated gallbladder
• Gallbladder polyps
• Porcelain gallbladders
• Gallbladder cancer

Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec share "the most common disease of the gallbladder is gallstones. Most people with gallstones do not even know they have them.  Once they cause problems, the gallbladder may need to be removed. Symptoms include pain below the right rib cage or in the “pit” of the stomach. This pain may radiate to the right upper back, chest, or shoulder. Other symptoms may include, bloating, nausea or vomiting, fever or chills, chronic diarrhea, jaundice yellow-tinted skin, or unusual lighter-colored stools or dark urine.”

After taking a closer look at GERD and gallbladder disease, Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec are able to provide helpful insight on common distinguishing factors between the two diseases.

Common distinguishing factors:
• Location: Although both may feel like a “pit in your stomach”, if you experience symptoms located closer to your throat or in your chest it is more likely to be GERD related. Symptoms located near your right lower rib radiating into your right upper back, chest and shoulder are more likely to be associated to your gallbladder.
• Pain: Unlike GERD, gallbladder pain usually begins suddenly, and changing positions, belching, passing gas or taking medications rarely helps pain symptoms go away.
• Timing: With heartburn being the most common symptom of GERD, symptoms of reflux are likely to occur shortly after eating, where symptoms of gallbladder disease usually occurs several hours after eating and have more consistent patterns of reoccurrence the same time each day.

What does treatment look like?
The symptoms of GERD are commonly and effectively treated with over-the-counter medications such as anti-acids and proton pump inhibitors. However, if relief does not go away from these medications your provider may recommend you be evaluated by one of our surgeons at Divine Savior.

After a thorough history and physical, our surgeons may recommend further evaluation of the esophagus and stomach with endoscopy.  Similar to colonoscopy, but without the need for prep, upper endoscopy allows the surgeon to visualize the esophagus, stomach and intestine to evaluate for damage to the esophagus, infection and a hiatal hernia.  Depending on the findings, further testing may be indicated to evaluate the function of the esophagus. 

Patients with severe GERD benefit from surgery to prevent reflux from occurring.  This procedure is commonly performed by both Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec, is minimally invasive, and very effective at treating GERD.  In fact, most patients no longer require any antacid medications after the procedure.

If you are found to have stones in the gallbladder causing symptoms, the best course of action is to have the gallbladder removed.  Leaving the stones in place will continue to cause pain and may result in serious infection of the gallbladder and bile ducts, jaundice or pancreatitis. 

Both Dr. Anderson and Dr. Pogorelec routinely perform minimally invasive removal of the gallbladder.  This is most often an outpatient procedure and very successful.  After a short recovery, most patients will find their symptoms are gone and they are able to live a normal life. 

If you experience symptoms related to GERD or gallbladder disease, or have concerns about either, it is best to consult your provider for further examination. Treatment for either disease varies person to person, but taking action immediately and being properly treated can help you prevent problems from worsening.

To schedule an appointment with Divine Savior Healthcare General Surgeons, Dr. Anderson or Dr. Pogorelec, call 608-745-5176.

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