February 08, 2018
February is American Heart Month, a federally designated event started in 1964 by then President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, with about one quarter of all deaths related to heart disease. But heart disease knows no borders. Cardiovascular disease—including heart disease and stroke—is the leading global killer, causing an estimated 17.9 million deaths annually.
American Heart Month continues to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease and to help save lives. We can each do something to help reduce our risk of disease, including making healthy choices about diet and lifestyle. My own New Year’s resolution was to exercise more—something I am trying hard to do.
We are fortunate to have strong programs at the medical school, including our Division of Cardiology, Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Advanced Heart Failure Program, and Division of Pediatric Cardiology. Together, our faculty and staff provide expert care for patients of any age, with any heart malady, and in all stages of heart disease.
Here are some highlights from our school to remember and honor this month:
- Dr. Francisco Fuentes, professor of cardiology and holder of the T.R. and M.O. Levy Endowed Professorship in Cardiology Research, recently held his 28th annual Preventive Cardiology Forum at the medical school – a free educational course that he offers to educate the community about heart-related issues. This year’s topic was “Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death and the New Chain of Survival.”
- The Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery will host its 11th annual Houston Aortic Symposium Frontiers in Cardiovascular Diseases Feb. 15-17. Symposium chairs are Drs. Hazim Safi and David McPherson, the James T. and Nancy B. Willerson Chair, with program directors Drs. Ali Azizzadeh and Tony Estrera. This scientific program attracts attendees from around the world who are involved in the care and treatment of patients with aortic diseases.
- Dr. K. Lance Gould, professor of cardiology and the Martin Bucksbaum Distinguished University Chair in Heart Disease, will be honored by the American College of Cardiology in March with its 2018 Distinguished Scientist Award-Translational Domain to recognize his many contributions to the profession. Dr. Gould and I have the honor of representing UTHealth and McGovern Medical School on the Board of the Houston Chapter of the American Heart Association.
- Dr. Igor Gregoric, chief of the surgical division and program director for the Center for Advanced Heart Failure, was honored with the Impression of the Year 2017, which is presented by the Association of Slovenians Educated Abroad and was presented by Slovenian President Borut Pahor.
- The Division of Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery recently welcomed new leadership. Dr. Jorge Salazar, professor and chief of service, was recruited from Boston Children’s Hospital. He is an accomplished surgeon and investigator, with a particular interest in surgery in very young infants and in protecting the brain during surgery for congenital heart disease.
- To promote healthy lifestyles, Dr. John Higgins, professor of cardiology, wrote a recent article in the Houston Chronicle about the benefits of exercise.
- Dr. John Breinholt, director of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology, and McGovern Medical School colleagues formed a team with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital to join families of children with congenital heart disease for Houston’s first Congenital Heart Walk this past fall.
- And just yesterday, Dr. Enrique Garcia Sayan, assistant professor of internal medicine, gave cardiology grand rounds on “Lifestyle Medicine 101.” He presented data on lifestyle changes (Mediterranean and plant-based diet, increased exercise, smoking cessation) that have been shown to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease.
It is comforting to know that we have this heart expertise in our community. This month, please do something nice for your heart – take care of it; it’s the only one you have!