You probably already got the office-wide e-mail. If not, it’s on its way. Friday is National Wear Red Day 2016, and it aims to bring attention to a staggering stat: heart disease and stroke cause the deaths of 1 in 3 women each year, more than all cancers combined. The good news is that 80 percent of those deaths are preventable through exercise and lifestyle changes.
When it comes to cardiac emergencies, time is also of the essence.
“Any muscle dies if it’s not fed within 90 minutes,” said Richard T. Margulis, President and CEO of the Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center (BMHMC). “If you can open [a clogged artery] up in 90 minutes, the patient has a much better chance of survival, otherwise the heart starts to die.”
This fall, residents of the South Shore of Suffolk County will have the opportunity to receive more compressive care when BMHMC opens the new Knapp Cardiac Care Center, a three-story, 60,000-square-foot facility.
I spoke with Margulis, senior director of operations Nona Kupfer and marketing manager Carolyn Villegas about the importance of the new center, why women often miss heart attack symptoms and how to embrace the Go Red movement all year long.
Long Island Pulse: You’re current facility has two catheterization labs and 306 beds. Tell me about the new facility.
Richard T. Margulis: It has three floors. Downstairs, we’ll have ambulatory access, registration, outpatient services and pre-surgical staging. The second floor is our cardiac suite, which will have up to four cardiac catheterization suites, which is double what we currently have. We’ll have a new entrance way, a nice family waiting area, nice services to compliment that cardiac program. On the third floor, we’ll have four new state-of-the-art operating rooms. We’re not talking about cardiac surgery at this point in time but four new operating rooms that will expand our surgical capabilities at the hospital.
Pulse: What do you hope this does for the community on the South Shore of Suffolk County?
Margulis: What it should do is improve the health of this community. That’s what it comes down to because if patients are not seeking timely cardiac care, they’re dying, or they’re developing more severe heart disease or it’s going untreated. It’ll help keep patients in this community. A community hospital needs to be able to take care of its community. That’s what this does. We also service a large number of people who are underserved, who don’t have access to healthcare. It’s sometimes remarkable that in today’s day and age, there are still people out there who do not have access to health care, who do not have a primary care physician, people who still stay at home and die at home. Many times, it’s too late.
Nona Kupfer: What comes with underserved is lack of education and knowledge. What happens with the underserved is that if they have to travel further for their cardiac services, they are going to have tremendous diminished healths and they may have these silent heart attacks so us being here for the community is critically important.
Pulse: In addition to your in-house services, what types of outreach do you do to raise awareness in the community about the risk factors of heart disease?
Kupfer: Our cardiologists are very involved, and they do a lot of speaking engagements. We’ve taken them on the road or we have lectures here, specifically for women on heart disease. We also go to various churches, YMCAs, areas like that and do screening, education, blood pressure, talk about risk factors. I have to tell you, we do a lot of outreach in the cardiac lecture series and I can tell you that most of the people there are women. In every lecture we do, we always do a piece on women because it is so prevalent and it’s ignored.
Pulse: Given that it’s so prevalent, with 1 in 3 deaths among women being caused by heart disease are stroke, why do you think it’s still being ignored?
Carolyn Villegas: Women make most of the healthcare decisions for the family and if you look at some of the grateful patients ads we do it’s usually the wife that’s saying, ‘come on, we’re going,’ and giving the last push. That’s why the women are the mouthpieces of the family, who will make the doctor’s appointments for everybody but themselves. They’ll even make the veterinary appointments before they make one for themselves. Really the messaging that we put out as part of the Knapp Cardiac Care Center lecture series is that you’re taking care of everyone, you have to take care of yourself.
Pulse: What symptoms should women look out for and how are they different from men?
Margulis: Women present much differently than men. They physically don’t have crushing chest pain, arm pain or shortness of breath. Their symptoms are a little more diffused. Sometimes, they’re just nauseous, they’re tired, just not generally feeling well, where men have an onset of crushing chest pains, jaw pain, radiating down the arm and it’s a little more obvious diagnosis. It’s more post-menopausal women.
Pulse: What are the biggest risk factors for heart attacks?
Kupfer: Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, people not taking care of themselves.
Pulse: National Wear Red Day 2016 is Feb. 5, but what can people do all year to prevent a heart attack?
Villegas: Live a cleaner life, exercise, eat right, reduce stress and most importantly go to the doctor.
Pulse: It’s an exciting time for the cardiac care center. How can people get involved?
Kupfer: We’re always looking for volunteers. We have a volunteer’s office 631-654-7737 and they can get in touch with Kaleigh Gorman.