Battling Heart Disease



Dr. D.P. Suresh at the St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute. Phase I of the new Heart & Vascular Institute opened in November 2014.

Photography by Daniel Smyth

In 2013, Kentucky’s numbers for heart health were not good. The commonwealth ranked 48th in heart attacks and 47th in heart disease in the country.

These troubling statistics helped motivate the St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute (HVI) to set a goal to reduce heart-related deaths in Northern Kentucky by 25 percent within 10 years of its 2015 grand opening. The American Heart Association shares a similar goal and president-elect of the Greater Cincinnati Affiliate of AHA, Dr. D.P. Suresh, leads the charge. For Dr. Suresh, everything he does has to answer one question, “What can we do to better the cardio health of our region?”

As Dr. Suresh walks the halls of St. Elizabeth, people smile. He jokes with a few of them, but does not break stride; he’s excited to show off the new Heart & Vascular Institute.

The HVI is more than a building; it represents “the entry point to better heart health,” says Dr. Suresh. The institute is a combination of experts and programs, a “one- stop-shop” of sorts, created to improve heart health in the region.

“When you come in the Heart & Vascular Institute, you don’t have to go anywhere else in the hospital.”

From 1970 to 2014, the American Heart Association has helped doctors and hospitals reduce heart-related deaths by almost 50 per- cent. This is no small feat, but Dr. Suresh and his colleagues understand that a tremendous amount of hard work still lies ahead. “We have robust and aggressive goals” in order to reduce heart disease by an additional 25 percent in 10 years.

Dr. Suresh is a focused practitioner, researcher and motivator. Anything that his team discusses in meetings must answer the question, “How does this advance our goals?” Those include increasing community education and screening, enhancing technology to bring the best care to patients, improving navigation for patients, increasing participation in research and clinical trials and expanding community access and outreach throughout the region.

Dr. Suresh’s sense of urgency is contagious, which has resulted in St. Elizabeth’s involvement in a handful of local fundraisers and events that help fund programs and research. Last year alone, the Heart Ball, a locally organized AHA event, raised $1 million. In addition, the Newport HeartChase – a sort of Amazing Race event – has been successful in raising funds and awareness among Greater Cincinnati families.

St. Elizabeth has also begun many educational programs to convince future generations to make heart health a priority. The HVI, for example, promotes AHA’s “Life’s Simple 7” to help people make wise decisions for their heart.

“Life’s Simple 7” includes: 

1. Get active

2. Control cholesterol

3. Eat better

4. Manage blood pressure

5. Lose weight

6. Reduce blood sugar

7. Stop smoking

If people would take these seven simple actions seriously, there would be a dramatic decrease in heart disease and heart attacks in this region.

Educational programs include “My Heart Rocks” to help students recognize healthy habits and develop healthy lifestyles; the CardioVascular Mobile Health Unit that makes it more convenient for screenings by visiting sites throughout Greater Cincinnati; and support for an AHA campaign to make CPR training a high school graduation requirement.

Since most heart attacks are likely to occur at home, “imagine how many lives could be saved if everyone was trained in CPR,” says Dr. Suresh.

As for research, St. Elizabeth regularly participates in clinical research studies of medications and medical devices to manage heart disease and stroke. In fact, Dr. Suresh discusses a study on obesity that St. Elizabeth participated in that recently resulted in an U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medication.

Why spend all this time, effort and money to improve heart health? The obvious answer is because a healthy heart is essential to a healthy life. For Dr. Suresh, it is also personal. “My mom died of heart failure two years ago,” he says, “so my mom is why.”

Dr. Suresh ponders his words. In the end, he says, it’s the “human connection” that keeps him fighting for healthy hearts. He then offers this restatement: 

“Life is why.”

 

 

St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute is located at 1 Medical Village Drive, Edgewood, KY 41017. You can reach them at 859.301.9355 or visit their website at www.stelizabeth.com/heart.