Protecting your heart after a heart procedure

08.05.2019

If you’ve had a stent placed in the arteries to help supply blood to your heart, or a procedure that restored regular heart rate and rhythm such as an ablation, pacemaker or a defibrillator, you may feel like once you’ve been discharged from the hospital, you’re good to go. But most people discover such procedures are life-altering events and they need to protect their hearts (and their lives) by eating healthier, exercising more, managing their stress, taking medications and monitoring any implanted devices.

The good news is that regular monitoring of implanted devices and medications lowers your risk for stroke, fatal arrhythmias, cardiac arrest or another heart attack. And, having an implanted cardiac device typically reduces office visits.

Diane Ringler, Cardiac Device Specialist
Diane Ringler, Cardiac Device Specialist

At Goshen Heart & Vascular Center, patients use wireless technology to send information to the center for a virtual check-up on the device. This saves time and money for patients, who can come less frequently to the office for regular cardiac device checks. “Instead, we can take care of their pacemakers and defibrillators anywhere they can connect to a phone line or wirelessly. Many of our patients head south for sunny weather during the winter months. We can stay in touch with them and their heart long distance,” said Diane Ringler, Cardiac Device Specialist who is certified with the International Board of Heart Rhythm Examiners. “In fact, 87 percent of our patients use remote monitoring because it is convenient and reduces office visits, while helping us keep them safe in the community since we have a better idea how their hearts and devices are functioning.”

“The device constantly collects and stores information on the number of heart episodes, how long they lasted and how efficiently the device functions,” said Diane. “The patient’s pacemaker or defibrillator sends important alerts about how the heart is working to our office automatically and in real time. This assures the patient and their family we are keeping a close eye on their heart and can take early and quick action if needed.”

Patients also go to the center periodically, which allows Diane and cardiologists to assess how the device is functioning and make adjustments if needed.

Long-term follow-up care keeps hearts healthy

For Jackie Miller, checkups at Goshen Heart & Vascular Center give her the reassurance she needs that her pacemaker and heart rhythm are in sync. She also meets with a specialist to ensure her blood thinning medication is in balance. Coumadin (whose generic name is Warfarin) is a common medication prescribed to help keep blood thinner so it can travel more easily through the vascular system.

“If Coumadin levels change, we talk with patients about what they’ve been eating, new medications they’re taking or what may have changed in their everyday routines,” explained Linda Nicolai, LPN, who oversees the Anticoagulation “Clinic” (which is not a physical clinic, but an office or two in Goshen Heart & Vascular Center).

The goal with each visit: maintain the right level of blood thinner to prevent blood clots that can cause strokes, pulmonary embolisms and heart attacks. Due to their close monitoring of patients on blood-thinning medicines, Goshen Heart & Vascular Center has greater success (80 percent) than the national average (34 percent) of keeping patients taking their medication as prescribed. Technically, this is described as “keeping them in the therapeutic range” – which lowers their risk for blood clots and stroke.

Taking control of heart health

At 79 years old, Jackie has lived with heart problems for decades. She relies on her pacemaker and medications to control congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation, or AFib. She knows when it’s time to call Goshen Heart & Vascular Center, even if it’s in between regular checkups.

“I know I can call if I don’t feel right,” said Jackie. “They get me in right away and tell me if I’ve had an episode or if my Coumadin is off.”

During checkups, Jackie makes sure to let her care team know about changes in her activity level, eating habits or everyday routine. The conversations have helped Jackie understand the importance of taking medications on schedule and how stress can factor into irregular heart function.

Support every step of the way

“We’re here to support patients as they adjust to life with heart device,” Diane said. “With open communication and mutual trust, patients like Jackie find renewed dedication to take better care of themselves. That means they feel better, stay out of the hospital and hopefully live longer.”

“I’m learning to live stress-free,” Jackie said. “And looking forward to life.”

To learn more about heart health, click here.