Heart Health Awareness 2023

Welcome to IBJ’s 2023 “Business Cares: Heart Health Awareness” Microsite

This year’s site is full of practical advice for staying heart healthy and how to respond in an emergency when every second counts.

View calendar now    View the interactive edition

  • Franciscan Health offers an excellent feature on something most people take for granted: blood pressure readings. Find out where—and how—to get the most reliable numbers.
  • The Fishers Police Department has partnered with Community Health Network to screen public safety personnel for heart issues, setting an example for the whole community to follow.
  • The chairwoman of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign is honored to lead the charge for women’s heart health.
  • A trio of IU Health electrophysiologists shines a light on the warning signs of atrial fibrillation, a growing problem that increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • The Noblesville chapter of Mended Hearts has zeroed in on a specific mission: promoting inexpensive heart scans that can save lives.
  • The American Heart Association is promoting an effective, two-step way to administer CPR. Find out how you can “Be the Beat” and possibly save a life.
  • Our February Heart Health Awareness calendar lists upcoming special events and educational opportunities related to heart health.

Thanks to the 18 companies and organizations listed below that sponsored this important section of IBJ. Their investment will fund a Heart Health Awareness campaign throughout the month of February via print, digital and e-newsletter platforms.

And thanks to our readers. We hope you’ll support our sponsors as they join all of us in working to make Hoosiers more heart healthy in 2023.

Nate Feltman
Publisher, President & CEO

Please look for the next installments of IBJ’s Business Cares Series: Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion on July 7, Breast Cancer Awareness on October 6, and Corporate Social Responsibility on November 1.

February 3
National Wear Red Day
On National Wear Red Day, thousands of people, including employees at more than 10,000 companies across the country, will wear red to support the start of American Heart Month. This year is the 22nd annual National Wear Red Day. Post a picture of yourself wearing red using the hashtag #IndyGoesRed and tag @AHAIndiana on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

February 3
Shop for a Cause
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. / Kendra Scott, 8702 Keystone Crossing, Indianapolis

Kendra Scott will support the American Heart Association by donating 20% of proceeds during this two-hour shopping event.

February 6
Heart Health Talk
5:30 – 6:30 p.m. / Online

Join board-certified family medicine physician Dr. Cynthia Speelman as she speaks on heart health and how to decrease your risk of heart disease through improved lifestyle behaviors. Register at https://www.hendricks.org/ CREG/ClassDetails.aspx?sid =1&ClassID=30073

February 7-14
Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week
Congenital heart defects affect nine of every 1,000 births and are one of the leading causes of death for infants less than 1 year of age. Thanks to years of research and medical advancements, many congenital heart defects can be fixed.

February 14
Wedding Ceremonies at Marion County Clerk’s Office
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. / Marion County Clerk, Room W-122, City County Building, 200 E. Washington St.

Marion County Clerk’s office will conduct wedding ceremonies to raise money for the American Heart Association. Couples who desire a simple civil ceremony or vow renewal can make a $50 contribution to the American Heart Association in lieu of an officiant’s fee. Couples can make a reservation by calling (317) 327-5099.

February 17
Go Red for Women Experience (Indianapolis)
10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. / Marriott Downtown, 350 W. Maryland St., Indianapolis

The 19th annual Go Red for Women Experience is the cornerstone event of the Go Red for Women campaign, celebrating achievements in helping women live longer, healthier lives. This year, attendees will learn how to “Be The Beat,” learning the lifesaving skill of Hands-Only CPR while hearing from heart disease survivors and local leaders. For more information, visit www.heart.org/indygoesred.

February 28
6:30 – 7:30 p.m., Hendricks Regional Health YMCA, Conference Room 2, 301 Satori Parkway, Avon, IN

Lifesteps is a 16-week program focused on weight management, specifically the importance of nutrition, fitness and behavior modification. Hendricks Regional Health registered dietitians will empower participants to make fundamental food habits aligned with their goals. The program requires daily practices and repetition, which can be tailored individually. Sign up to attend a free orientation and find out whether this program is for you. Register at https://www.hendricks.org/ CREG/ClassDetails.aspx?sid =1&ClassID=30049

March 7
Importance of Goals
5:30 – 6:30 p.m., March 7, Hendricks Regional Health Conference Room 6, 1000 East Main Street, Danville, IN

Understanding how to set SMART goals can set you up for success by making goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Setting goals that are SMART can increase self-efficacy, empowerment and confidence in hitting your wellness vision. Led by Nicholas Galley, Hendricks Regional Health Lifestyle Medicine & Programming Team. Register at https://www.hendricks.org /CREG/ClassDetails.aspx?sid =1&ClassID=30075

March 16
Nutrition 101
5:30 – 6:30 p.m. / Online

Wanting to improve your diet but not sure how to get started? Join Hendricks Regional Health dietitian Christine Arvin for a primer on nutrition. This presentation will review the food groups that promote a healthy eating pattern. Christine will share tools, including My Plate and the Nutrition Facts Panel, that will empower you to improve your diet. This will be a virtual presentation. Register at https://www.hendricks.org/ CREG/ClassDetails.aspx?sid =1&ClassID=30076

Don’t leave blood pressure measurement to the professionals

Home readings are often more accurate

Content provided by Franciscan Health

A woman preparing to test her blood pressure in a living room.

After sprinting across the parking lot, you make it into your physician’s office just in time for your appointment. You chat with the nurse as she escorts you back to the exam room. You start to feel the effects of that cup of coffee you had and regret not having stopped at the restroom first. The nurse wraps the blood pressure cuff around your upper arm, and you try to relax. She pumps up the cuff tourniquet-tight, places her stethoscope in the crook of your arm and releases the air gradually, listening for that mysterious moment.

Afterwards, she removes the cuff with that typical velcro rip, saying, “well, it’s a little high.”

How can that be? You’ve watched your salt, started exercising—even lost a few pounds! And the reading you took yesterday with your home monitor hovered near that desired 120/80 mark.

Take heart—you’re not alone. Contrary to what you may think, going by the blood pressure reading you get in your doctor’s office isn’t always a great idea.

When it comes to getting it right, the stakes are high. Maintaining a normal blood pressure is basic to our best heart health. By avoiding or minimizing hypertension, we reduce the stress on our arteries and heart muscle. But high blood pressure tends to have no symptoms, which makes it important to track your blood pressure and work with your doctor on keeping it at a healthy level, especially as we age.

Home monitors make regular tracking possible, but how helpful and accurate are they, really? As it turns out, very accurate.

Professional headshot of Derrick Plahn

“We tend to think the blood pressure monitors in the doctor’s office are more sophisticated, more accurate than home monitors,” said Derrick Plahn, DO, cardiologist with Indiana Heart Physicians, a Franciscan Physician Network practice. “But the problem is, you don’t live at the doctor’s office.” Depending on the reason for your visit, you may be experiencing temporary anxiety. In addition, about one in three patients have what is called “white coat hypertension,” meaning just seeing the doctor or being in the office can raise the blood pressure.

But of all the factors that can temporarily affect your blood pressure reading, a home monitor itself is probably not one of them. There are many excellent, easy-to-use home monitors available, said Dr. Plahn, who encourages all of his patients to have one and use it regularly.

“You are more apt to get more accurate blood pressure readings at home than at the office because home is your normal environment. As physicians, we’ve learned to rely more on home readings than those taken in our office,” said Dr. Plahn.

Closeup image of a digital blood pressue monitor

Buying a home blood pressure monitor

  • When purchasing a monitor for home use, decide first what features you want, such as how many readings you want stored on the unit and if more than one person will be using it. Many home devices also track pulse rate, and more advanced models can even track irregularities in heartbeat, if that is a health concern as well.
  • Buy the right model and size. Arm cuff models tend to be more accurate than wrist models, especially for older patients, but it’s important to get one with the correct cuff size. In general, if the circumference of your upper arm is more than 17 inches, look for a monitor with an extra-large cuff or a highly rated wrist monitor.
  • Wrist monitors are more likely to give erroneous numbers. Make sure the device is validated (validatebp.org) and you check its accuracy by comparing the numbers to the blood pressure device at your doctor’s office.
  • Take your home monitor to the doctor’s office to compare readings and calibration to the office models.

How to take your blood pressure at home

When checking your blood pressure, follow these guidelines as closely as possible. Ignoring one or more of them may affect your reading, whether you’re at home or in the doctor’s office.

  • Empty your bladder.
  • Don’t have a conversation while taking your pressure.
  • Support back and feet—sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Support arm at heart level by placing it on the arm of a chair or a tabletop.
  • Keep legs uncrossed.
  • Use the correct monitor cuff size.
  • Place cuff on bare arm, not over a shirt or sweater.
  • Sit for at least one minute before taking the blood pressure.

“Also, don’t take your blood pressure when you’re angry or upset, for obvious reasons,” said Dr. Plahn.

“And take it before you eat a meal or drink your coffee, tea, or other beverage with caffeine.”

Consult with your primary care doctor if you have concerns about your blood pressure. If specialized care is needed, Franciscan Health is here. To schedule an appointment with a cardiologist at Franciscan Physician Network Indiana Heart Physicians, call 317-893-1900.

Fishers program offers heart health lessons for all

By Bobbie Brooks
Community Health Network

Sergeant Angela Ellison in uniform.

Sergeant Angela Ellison is a 26-year veteran of the Fishers Police Department. She has seen a lot in her years of service to the community, including a startling trend among her colleagues. “We can draw our pension at age 52. Well, some were not making it to that or only making it a few years beyond that.,” said Ellison.

Ellison’s concern led her to online research and a study showing that the average life expectancy of law enforcement officers is 22 years less than the general population—57 vs. 79 for everyone else.

“We’re in a very stressful job and we typically aren’t taking care of ourselves like we could, because we’re taking care of everyone else. … The thought of working this long and not being able to enjoy my retirement with my family was really too much.”

In January 2022, armed with this research and the concern for the cardiac issues she was seeing in her own department, Ellison sought help. City of Fishers employees had recently switched their health insurance to Community Health Direct, a partnership service of Community Health Network. Ellison reached out to Community and a meeting was quickly set up.

After the meeting, Community formed an inter-disciplinary task force, including cardiologists, primary care providers, and business partnership leaders to brainstorm solutions for the City of Fishers Police Department. “Folks really jumped in,” said Dr. Patrick McGill, Community Health Network Chief Transformation Officer, and senior executive of the City of Fishers partnership. “They ran to the problem,” said McGill.

Dr. Sandeep Dube, a cardiologist and the clinical lead for the team, said he and his colleagues were surprised by what they learned. “It was eye-opening for us as clinicians that people were dying at such a young age and such a high rate,” he said.

The initial call for help from Sgt. Ellison resulted in the “City of Fishers Heart Care Program.” All police officers 40 years and older are eligible to receive a biometric screening to determine their risk for various health issues, including heart disease and diabetes. Those who show an increased risk for heart conditions are scheduled for a $49 heart scan. The program is provided free to officers through funding from the Community Health Network Foundation. Those deemed at risk are also eligible for three vascular screenings (carotid arterial, abdominal aortic, and ankle brachial index). The $33 cost is covered by the City of Fishers.

“It took very little time honestly for officers to say, ‘yeah, I am interested in that’ because they know the statistics,” said Ellison. “This was something non-invasive, benign procedurally to do and just see where they are … to see if intervention needed to take place or to see if they were doing well and just continue that path.”

The screenings began in June and are still underway. So far, about 45% of the eligible staff have utilized the program, from biometric screening to scheduling the heart scan and vascular screenings. “I know seven officers where an issue was found, and a few of them needed urgent intervention and were able to get that. They were just walking around not knowing that this was an issue, so I really feel like we saved some lives,” Ellison said.

Word of mouth resulted in an expansion of the program, opening it to all eligible City of Fishers employees and their families, with funding by the Community Health Foundation and City of Fishers. “Anytime you can focus on prevention and prevent that chronic disease or catastrophic illness, it promotes a healthier workforce,” said Dr. McGill, “That’s where the partnership is really key.”

“We must take care of each other. If we can make our police and other municipal employees healthier, they can work better and have longer lives. They can do their job better and take care of other community members better. So, it is a win-win situation,” said Dr. Dube.

Dr. Dube encourages anyone with risk factors, including family history, who are in a stressful job to seek preventative measures like screenings or a heart scan. “For men, if you are over 45 or women over 55, if you are overweight or smoke, have high blood pressure or diabetes, then you should have a screening,” Dube said.

Ellison says it just makes sense. “You cannot be good for anyone else, no matter what your job or your status is, unless you take care of yourself first.”

For her, it is a mission that has come full circle. It started with a request for help last January for a longer, healthier life for her fellow police officers. It became a program that expanded to all eligible employees for the City of Fishers and their families. The year ended with her own husband, a retired police officer, making an appointment for a screening as an eligible family member. That screening led to consultations with doctors.

“When Community can partner with employers and partner with patients on chronic disease prevention, we are really living our vision, mission, and values, promoting health and well-being in the communities that we serve,” said Dr. McGill.

“There’s no better relationship or example of that mission than in this partnership when we’re really proactively seeking out preventable illness and addressing it right there on the spot.”

Go Red for Women campaign leader serves from the heart

Content provided by the American Heart Association

Group photograph of Kim Speer with her husband and two sons.

Hendricks County resident Kim Speer has two passions in her life: family and giving back to her community. Oftentimes, those two passions go hand in hand, including her current volunteer role as chairwoman of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign in central Indiana.

Speer met her husband Kevin, the president and CEO of Hendricks Regional Health, at Valparaiso University School of Law. The two moved to Indianapolis, where she spent more than a decade practicing criminal law at the Office of the State Public Defender.

When their sons Eric and Cole were in elementary school, Speer decided to step away from her career and quickly found her calling as a volunteer.

“The boys went to Heritage Christian through middle school, and I was very active with the PTO and board and worked closely on a number of the school’s capital campaigns,” Speer says.

From there, the Speer boys moved to Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, where Kim continued pouring her efforts into helping her family’s school community, including time as president of the Brebeuf Jesuit Mother’s Association and team manager of the men’s hockey team. During Eric and Cole’s time at DePauw University, she served as president of the DePauw University Parents Council and team parent for the men’s lacrosse team.

Go Red for Women: Women need CPR, too, Learn more at goredforwomen.org/WomenandCPR.

With their sons out of school and in careers, Speer continues to actively volunteer, oftentimes in connection with Kevin’s role at the hospital.

Serving in a “support role” to Kevin, she has also served as event co-chair of the Sheltering Wings premier event and each year helps out with the planning of the Hendricks Regional Health gala, raising money for a highlighted area of the hospital.

It was her connection to the hospital, along with a very personal connection to heart disease, that led her to chair the Go Red for Women campaign.

“I will never forget the day I received a call from my dad that my mom had suffered a heart attack,” Speer says. “A few years later, I received a call that Kevin was on his way to the cath lab. Both moments had a profound effect on me. I was terrified of losing them.”

Her mom’s heart attack happened around the time that the American Heart Association launched the Go Red for Women campaign in response to the fact that 1 in 3 women’s deaths are due to heart disease.

“Women have historically been misdiagnosed when it comes to heart problems and underrepresented in research,” says Amanda Mills, executive director of the American Heart Association in Indianapolis. “Go Red for Women is an educational program to raise awareness about the prevention of heart disease and stroke, and to help women better recognize the signs and symptoms of heart attacks in addition to raising funds for more heart-related research specifically on women.

“We need women like Kim, who have been personally impacted by heart disease, as leaders of this movement.”

Speer, who has attended the annual Go Red for Women luncheon several times, was honored to be asked to lead this year’s campaign.

“Heart disease affects everyone in some way,” Speer says. “Everyone has a story. To impact our community by being able to lead a movement like this—I’m honored.”

For Speer, the overarching message of the campaign is prevention.

“The majority of heart disease and stroke is preventable,” she says. “If we’re proactive by making healthy choices to eat right, move more and to make our health a priority, we strongly reduce our risks. We don’t have to lose our mothers, sisters and friends to heart disease and stroke.”

While the Go Red for Women campaign is a 12-month effort, Speer is looking forward to the annual celebration luncheon with survivors and volunteers on Feb. 17. She’ll celebrate alongside her husband, sons, friends and the Hendricks Regional Health team that are sponsoring the event.

For more information about Go Red for Women in Central Indiana, visit www.heart.org/indygoesred.

When your heart skips a beat, it could be more than love

By Tanya Tanawuttiwat, John Miller, and Mithilesh Kumar Das

Professional headshots of Tanya Tanawuttiwat, John Miller, and Mithilesh Kumar Das

A skipped beat, an irregular heartbeat, a pounding heart, or a racing heart—you might feel any of these symptoms when you’re in love, but could they be signs that you have atrial fibrillation?

Also known as “A-fib” or AF, the condition affects around 5 million Americans, making it the most common sustained heart arrhythmia.

More than 750,000 people with AF are hospitalized each year, and it’s becoming more common: Projections of AF incidences are expected to double, from 1.2 million cases in 2010 to 2.6 million cases in 2030. AF can affect people of any age, though it’s most common in those over the age of 60. Studies have shown about 1 in 3 white individuals and 1 in 5 African Americans will develop AF in their lifetime.

The most common risk factor for AF is high blood pressure. Your risk also increases if you smoke, are overweight or older, or have diabetes, thyroid problems, kidney disease, heart failure, or heart valve disease.

Other risk factors include consuming excess alcohol or untreated sleep apnea.

Know the warning signs of heart attack and stroke: You could save your life. GoRedForWomen.org.

While many individuals with AF have symptoms, some may have no symptoms at all. If left undetected and untreated, AF significantly increases the risk for stroke, heart failure, dementia, and death. But there is good news: Knowing you have AF makes a big difference in being able to prevent these complications.

The first step to know if you may have AF is to schedule an appointment with your health care provider to discuss your symptoms. Your doctor may do a quick and painless test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. Known as an EKG, the test is often done in the office, especially if your pulse is irregular during the visit. If symptoms come and go, you may be given a heart monitor to wear for 24 hours to several days to help detect AF. Some smart watches can also help screen and monitor for AF, but it is important to contact your doctor for further testing and treatment options.

Early detection of AF can improve quality of life. For instance, when an arrythmia is caught early, the top chambers of the heart are less likely to be enlarged, making it easier to restore and maintain a normal heart rhythm.

AF can also cause blood to stagnate and form clots in the fibrillating top chambers of the heart. These clots may dislodge and travel to arteries or veins in the brain, heart, lungs or other areas, causing a heart attack, stroke, or irreversible damage to other organs in the body. It is critical for someone with AF to be evaluated for their risk of blood clots, especially if they are older and have an underlying condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, peripheral vascular disease, previous stroke history or heart failure.

The good news is there are ways to reduce the risk of a stroke and other complications from AF. Lifestyle changes such as reducing or eliminating alcohol intake, exercising, treating sleep apnea, and losing weight can reduce arrhythmia in most people and improve overall health. In some cases, medications can help keep the heart in a normal rhythm. Another safe and effective treatment option is a catheter ablation, a minimally invasive procedure that stops the electrical impulses that cause irregular heart rhythms.

Our team of heart specialists at IU Health have established an Atrial Fibrillation Center of Excellence designed to tailor the best care for every patient. The center includes experts with significant experience using the full range of approaches. This allows us to provide accurate diagnosis and individualized treatment of AF through leading-edge technology. You can book a same-day appointment with one of our top cardiologists today.

Drs. Das, Miller, and Tanawuttiwat are all electrophysiologists at Indiana University Health.

Mended Hearts pushes heart scans and their potential to save lives

An Indianapolis-area chapter of Mended Hearts has provided approximately 200 free heart scans to hospital volunteers and first responders in Hamilton County as it works to get the word out about the potential of heart scans to save lives.

Mended Hearts of Noblesville, Chapter 350, is part of Mended Hearts Inc., a 71-year-old not-for-profit with chapters worldwide. The organization’s mission is to provide peer-to-peer support, education, and advocacy to heart patients and their caregivers.

The Noblesville chapter has taken on a secondary mission: promoting heart scans that can keep Hoosiers from being among the more than 800,000 Americans who have a heart attack every year.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is blocked causing the muscle to be damaged or die. A painless, 15-minute heart scan, available at most local hospitals, can find those blockages before a heart attack happens. Though the routine scans aren’t covered by insurance, they typically cost less than $50.

The Noblesville chapter of Mended Hearts is affiliated with Riverview Health Hospital in Noblesville, where it provided free heart scans to hospital volunteers. Free scans were also provided to employees of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department.

The results of the free scans were in line with national statistics, said Mended Hearts representative Marv Norman. About 15 percent of low-risk patients failed the heart scan and 65 percent of high-risk patients failed.

“We believe strongly in this program, and we’re looking for partners to expand the coverage aimed at high-risk individuals,” Norman said.

Heart scans are especially important in Indiana, he said, a state rated poorly for health in the areas of smoking, body mass index, and mental health. High body mass can lead to issues with diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Mental health issues can also increase stress.

Heart scans don’t just show blockages, Norman said, citing information from the Cleveland Clinic and other hospital systems. They also can detect defective heart valves, tumors, artery defects and heart inflammation.

For more information about Mended Hearts’ Noblesville chapter and all of its programs, visit mendedhearts350.org or email mendedheartshc350@gmail.com.

‘Be the Beat’ with CPR training

On Jan. 2, Buffalo Bills football player Damar Hamlin made a tackle, stood up briefly and then collapsed on the field in sudden cardiac arrest. His heart had stopped beating.

We sat shocked as a game with playoff implications suddenly became meaningless in a battle between life and death.

Of the more than 350,000 people in the United States who suffer a sudden cardiac arrest outside of the hospital each year, Hamlin was among the most fortunate.

Athletic trainers from both teams were at his side in mere seconds. They were soon joined by doctors and other first responders who were all trained in CPR and other life-saving measures, giving Hamlin incredible odds of survival.

But what about the rest of us?

Approximately 70 percent of cardiac arrests occur in the home. Who will be there for those 245,000 people to save them when the odds of survival drop 10 percent for every minute that passes without oxygen flowing through the body?

The answer, of course, is us. You and I will be the ones called upon to save the lives of someone we love.

This February–American Heart Month–the theme at the American Heart Association is “Be the Beat,” an effort to train at least one person in every household in the lifesaving skill of Hands-Only CPR.

Hands-Only CPR is easy to learn because there are only two steps. And it is proven to be as effective as traditional CPR without requiring someone to deliver rescue breaths.

The two simple steps are: 1. Call 911 2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest. heart.org, Copyright 2023 American Heart Association, Inc., a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use prohibited. DS17758 5/21

Pushing fast means 100 to 120 beats per minute, which is easiest to do when you have the beat from an upbeat song in your head.

An easy song to perform compressions to is “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.

Sing it now and visualize yourself doing compressions at the same time:

“Ah, ha, ha, ha stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive”
“Ah, ha, ha, ha stayin’ alive”

The American Heart Association has a two-minute training video available at www.heart.org/handsonlycpr. Take two minutes now to watch it and learn how to Be The Beat for someone in need.