To raise awareness of American Heart Month, U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton on Wednesday toured the Schaufeld Family Heart Center at Inova Loudoun Hospital.
The hour-long tour was led by David Reich, the director of cardiovascular services, along with Inova Loudoun President Deborah Addo and Stacey Metcalfe, the director of Inova’s Western Region Government and Community Relations department. Wexton was updated on the latest treatments for cardiac emergencies, as well as the county’s health trends and special efforts the staff is undertaking to improve community health.
Reich said that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the Heart Center sees a large number of young patients.
“We think of ourselves as a young, healthy community, but what we see is a little different,” he told Wexton.
“We are seeing younger patients more than we should. Late 30s, 40, and early 50s working “young” professionals. The demographic under 49 is a growing segment that is startling,” he said.
Reich said there likely are several factors in play, including diets that include a lot of fast food and processed food along with more sedentary lifestyles.
“We don’t exercise. Our jobs used to be up moving walking doing things, but now we’re all handcuffed to a desk,” he said.
The tour highlighted that the work of the Heart Center staff isn’t just about bypasses, angioplasties, and stents.
Reich noted his staff’s work with nonprofits including Loudoun Hunger Relief to promote heart-healthy diets and health education out in the community.
Dr. Ather Anis told Wexton about his nonprofit, the Ahya Foundation, which is reaching out to schools and community groups to provide free compression-only CPR training. He said maintaining the heart function during a cardiac emergency is critical.
“Our part is easy if they get CPR. But if they don’t get CRP, no matter what we do, they will be dead,” he said.
He said CPR training is an important community issue. “Unless the community does it itself and educates its own population, our [survival] numbers will be below Scandinavian countries,” where CPR training has been mandated for decades. In the U.S., only 33 states require high school students to learn CPR, he said. “We are way behind.”
Reich is looking forward to moving next month into the new patient tower on the hospital’s Lansdowne campus and expanding the department’s services. A major change will be the introduction of virtual consultations in which doctors can meet with patients online, perhaps using Fitbit data to assess conditions. “This is something that is done in Europe quite well,” he said.
There also will be larger conference rooms that will allow more community training programs.
Wexton said she was primarily interested in getting an update on the Heart Center: “what they are doing now. What they’re hoping to do in the future. What kinds of procedures that they are seeing. What they are seeing in terms of people’s heart health in the community.”
The importance of CRP training is one lesson that stood out.
“We need to make sure that everyone is trained in CRP. That is one thing that can save lives,” she said.