Community event addresses cardiac health and heart failure



By Tammy Schneider


Cutline for both photos: Dr. Gerard Shoemaker addresses a group of residents interested in staying heart healthy. (Tammy Schneider photo)


Is heart disease an issue in Bruce County? Are local services available to treat those with heart disease? Who is at risk?


These were just a few of the questions addressed at a free community event on Sept. 18 at the Kincardine Pavilion,titled Cardiac Health & Heart Failure: Know Your Numbers.


Dr. Gary Gurbin kicked off the seminar by introducing cardiologist Dr. Gerard Shoemaker and cardiac nurse practitioner Maureen Leyser, both from London Health Sciences Centre University Hospital.


Dr. Shoemaker began his presentation with several startling and disturbing statistics. He indicated that heart disease is a more significant problem in this area than in most other regions in the province. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease, and is an issue for both the general and Indigenous populations locally. Heart disease is the second highest cause of death in Canada, second only to cancer, and the economic impact of treating heart disease reaches more than $20 billion each year nationally.


Knowing that the local senior population is growing and needs specialized services, and that professionals recruited to work in the area are looking for quality health care, medical professionals have been working to bring better and more efficient cardiac care to the area.


“Service is expanding and as the community grows, so will the need for more programs,” said Dr. Shoemaker.


A team of four cardiologists, based in London, rotate weekly through the Kincardine hospital to provide in-patient and out-patient care to residents dealing with cardiac illness. Professional advice and referrals are also available for patients that require further testing or surgery. Staff at the Kincardine hospital is equipped to triage, diagnose and refer, if necessary, to London Health Science Centre.


The goal of the seminar, the first of its kind in Kincardine, is to increase awareness and knowledge about cardiac health. The question of risk is a common one, and residents concerned with their cardiac health are encouraged to contact their doctor or theKincardine Family Health Team so that proper testing and follow-up can be arranged. Patients undergo blood tests and provide a medical history, and information is then fed in to a computer program that instantly determines their risk of developing heart disease. A course of action can then be arranged that might include changes to diet and activity levels, smoking cessation, weight loss and other lifestyle modifications to decrease risk.


Knowing your numbers means having up-to-date information about the levels that cause heart disease. This includes cholesterol levels, blood pressure and others factors that determine your risk score. Armed with that information, patients and doctors can make good choices to lessen risk, and take better control of their cardiac health.