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Your Healthy Community: Why the heart matters

By By Katie Sciba
March 14, 2014 at midnight
Updated March 13, 2014 at 10:14 p.m.


"I'm what you call an interventional cardiologist," said Dr. Tywaun Tillman. He started learning about cardiology when he was 17 years old because of a mentor who allowed him to shadow for several years.

When it came time for him to pick a specialty in medical school, becoming a heart doctor was a no-brainer. Did you know there are different types of cardiologists? I did not.

An interventional cardiologist does heart catheterizations, stents, pacemakers and other vascular work.

Tillman has been helping people in Victoria for 61/2 years. He said that cardiology is very rewarding work because cardiologists can perform life-saving interventions in a short amount of time that produce immediate and visible results.

His favorite part of being a cardiologist is the patient interaction. "It's like visiting and catching up with friends every day," he said. "And I enjoy meeting new people."

He told me about a patient who had coded in the ambulance, in the ER and during his surgery. Tillman placed three stents in this patient's heart while others performed chest compressions the entire time. This patient walked out of the hospital.

I asked Tillman to help us understand the relationship between diabetes mellitus and the heart. He said that a person with diabetes is five times more likely to have a stroke or heart attack, which results from coronary artery disease or cardiovascular disease.

I had to ask him to go slow for this social worker. Coronary artery disease means that there are vascular problems in the heart, and cardiovascular disease means the vascular problems could be anywhere in the body.

A diabetic patient having signs or symptoms such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol is treated aggressively because they are at such high risk for stroke or heart attack.

The worst-case scenario for him is a younger person having a heart attack. When older people have heart attacks, they are usually smaller attacks because their arterial problems have built over time, and their bodies have accommodated by creating new arteries to keep oxygen flowing. This is why people of all ages need to care for their hearts.

Tillman said the best thing you can do for your heart is to eat a healthy diet, exercise, maintain an optimal weight and avoid smoking. For diabetics, the same advice applies, including vigilant blood sugar control and maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. He cautioned that a diabetic who smokes will most likely will have cardiovascular problems.

The most common admitting diagnoses for a hospital patient is heart failure. I asked him to explain congestive heart failure, and he began to draw diagrams on my yellow legal pad. He said congestive heart failure is actually a syndrome, meaning you need to find the underlying problem.

The heart working properly is able to send blood oxygen to filter out and clean up. When it fails, unnecessary fluid begins to build. Give your heart some love and commit to eating right and moving more.

Katie Sciba is a writer, a licensed social worker, a pastor's wife and a mother from Victoria. She works for AARN Health Services and blogs online at Always Simply Begin.

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