A primary care visit helped this active 72-year-old identify a heart condition
Kathryn Froney didn't believe her swollen ankles and shortness of breath were anything to be alarmed about. The 72-year-old Elk Grove Village resident thought the symptoms were a byproduct of her busy swimming schedule and lengthy walks in her neighborhood.
Kathryn's primary care physician, however, suspected there was more behind it. The physician sent Kathryn to Northwest Community Healthcare for a battery of cardiovascular tests.
The trip to see cardiologist Steven Lupovitch, M.D., of NCH Heart and Vascular Specialists was just in time. Kathryn was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure.
"I have never been sick," Kathryn says. "But I did have all the signs: retaining water, swollen ankles and shortness of breath."
Understanding the Signs
Atrial fibrillation occurs when erratic electrical signals disrupt the heart's normal, coordinated beating rhythm. It can cause difficulty breathing, a racing heart and overwhelming fatigue. Left untreated, these problems can become more frequent and increase a person's risk for heart failure and stroke.
Congestive heart failure is a progressive cardiac illness in which the heart cannot pump enough oxygenated blood to meet the body's needs. Swollen ankles are a sign that the heart is not sending out enough blood.
"The doctor believed the heart was weakening because there was too much fluid retention," Kathryn says. "I began taking medication to help reduce my symptoms."
Kathryn also began testing her blood every week to monitor the effects of her medication.
"My progress toward wellness began with medication and intervention," Kathryn says. "Dr. Lupovitch was clear that he could make me feel better. This was a life-changing experience, because it taught me how to monitor my well-being every day."
After six months of noninvasive procedures at NCH and scores of tests, Kathryn feels as if she is on her road to recovery.
"I wouldn't be going anywhere else for heart care," she says. "NCH was here for me and educated me on how to independently take care of my heart health. NCH was on target in treating me."
NCH Opens New Heart Failure Clinic
For people who have been diagnosed with heart failure, there is now more help than ever. NCH recently opened a new outpatient clinic designed specifically for patients with heart failure.
The Atherton Heart Failure Clinic inside the NCH Health Center at 199 W. Rand Road in Mount Prospect employs an innovative care delivery model that includes a consistent transition from hospital to home for each heart failure patient.
Supervised by a cardiologist and led by an advanced practice nurse, a team of healthcare professionals—including physician assistants, nurse educators, nutritionists, a social worker, exercise physiologists and pharmacists—see heart failure patients at the clinic within 72 hours of their discharge from NCH. The team provides medical care and one-on-one support, communicating directly with the person's primary care physician or cardiologist to provide an individualized plan of care that will help him or her with disease management.
In 2012, NCH diagnosed and treated more than 1,600 people with heart failure, and that number is expected to increase to 2,500 to 3,000 in the next few years.