October 1, 2011

Free Cholesterol Test, Blood Pressure Check and Diabetes Screening

Posted in heart disease, Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 11:32 am by keepyourhearthealthy

Kroger logo

Image via Wikipedia

In this tough economy Kroger hopes to attract more customers by offering Free Health Screenings at participating pharmacies.  Heart disease patients know the importance of annual cholesterol checks but they can get quite costly for those without health insurance.  This new Health Screening option can provide a little relief in the expense of maintaining a healthy heart.

Kroger grocery stores throughout the U.S. are advertising these free Health Screenings which include:

  • Cholesterol Check (reportedly includes Total Cholesterol, LDL, Triglycerides and HDL)
  • Blood Pressure Check
  • Diabetes Screening
  • Body Mass Index

A licensed pharmacist performs the tests and discusses the results with you.  Most likely you will be given a copy of your test results so that you can bring them to your doctor for review.  Heart disease patients experiencing financial stress can use this free screening as their annual cholesterol test.  As long as you bring the results to your doctor and the numbers are at “heart disease goal,” there should be no need to obtain a second test.  If there are changes made to your cholesterol medication, a second test will need to be done to verify the medicine is working.

People who want to take advantage of this opportunity need to make an appointment by calling the national Kroger number 1-877-444-9689.  It is important to see a cardiologist at least once a year if you have heart disease so please do not use this as a substitute for your yearly heart check-up.  Find more great tips about cutting costs and maintaining a healthy heart in the book What To Do When You Have Heart Disease.

May 23, 2011

Noninvasive Mitral Valve Repair May Not be Getting a Fair Shot

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Helpful Heart Links, New Heart Studies, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 12:00 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

MitraClip Mitral Valve Repair System.

from the Abbott website

MedPage Today reported promising results in a study yesterday involving noninvasive mitral valve repair.  Some clinicians feel the results could be much better if the patient population were different.

A new device called the MitraClip is getting significant publicity after initial results of the Everest II study were recently released.  The MitraClip is a small prosthesis used to treat severe Mitral Regurgitation (a condition in which too much blood is going through the mitral valve in the wrong direction).  This noninvasive repair process  invloves implanting the clip onto the mitral valve of the heart by a simple needlestick in the groin.

The procedure is very similar to a heart catheterization for placing stents in which a wire is guided up through a blood vessel into the heart.  According to the manufacturer’s website (Abbott), “The Guide Catheter is inserted into the femoral vein at the groin and provides access to the mitral valve. The Clip is used to grasp and fasten together the valve leaflets.”  Once the clip is holding the mitral valve together in the middle, the valve is no longer able to allow so much blood to flow backwards.  There is still plenty of flow forward around the clip.

The new study Everest II which is testing this device in up to 47 sites throughout the US and Canada has reported that “quality of life, and rates of re-hospitalization for heart failure improved significantly in the MitraClip-treated patients at one year” according to MedPage Today’s article.  This was determined only after they compared “high-risk” surgical candidates.  According to Bob Baeten, PA-C, at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, the new methodology for testing this device may be preventing it from getting better results.  He states, “We’re testing this on the sickest of the sick rather than the patients who could recover easily from surgery.  It’s the patients who get turned down for surgery that are tested with the MitraClip.  These people are already very ill which is why they were turned down for surgery in the first place.”

It should be noted that the MitraClip has been approved and used commercially in Europe for 3 years now.  The device is still seeking approval here in the U.S.  The only way an American citizen can obtain this noninvasive mitral valve repair currently is by entering into a study at participating study locations.

For more information about heart catheterization procedures and recovering from heart surgery, check out the book What To Do When You Have Heart Disease at Amazon.com.

April 27, 2011

Pradaxa Now Covered by Medicare Part D!!

Posted in Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:25 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

A patient having his blood pressure taken by a...

Image via Wikipedia

The new Coumadin alternative, Pradaxa, has recently become available on the Medicare Part D formulary.  Medicare recipients finally have an affordable option to Coumadin.

The first Coumadin alternative for atrial fibrillation became available late last year and Medicare patients have been anxiously waiting for it’s inclusion in the Part D formulary ever since.  With a hefty out-of-pocket cost at $250 a month, Pradaxa was much too expensive for most of the retired community.

Even though Pradaxa prevents more strokes than Coumadin, has no interactions with food (not even spinach) and requires NO monitoring (seriously, no more fingerstick checks!), many seniors could not rationalize paying $250 a month compared to Coumadin or warfarin which can cost as little as $4 per month.  Now, 6 months after Pradaxa was approved by the FDA, Medicare Part D has multiple plans which will cover the cost of this expensive new drug.  By searching the website www.medicare.gov, patients will be able to find Part D coverage and compare prices for individual plans.  The monthly drug cost is still fairly expensive (from $30 to $50 a month) but this is still significantly less than out-of-pocket cost.

Patients who plan to switch to Pradaxa should confirm with their Part D provider that the drug is covered before trying to get the prescription filled.  Here are some important tips to help make the switch:

  • Your INR needs to be 2 or less before you can start Pradaxa
  • You must take Pradaxa twice a day!
  • You CAN take Pradaxa while also taking Plavix but only if your cardiologist feels it is safe in your situation
  • Pradaxa starts working within 30 minutes to 2 hours
  • Pradaxa is generally no longer effective if you miss 2 doses
  • You cannot take Pradaxa if you are also taking Rifampin
  • Pradaxa is not currently indicated for people with mechanical heart valves (although this may be coming within the next few years)
  • The pills expire within 30 days of opening the bottle
  • The most common side effect is heartburn (GI upset)

March 17, 2011

Stents or Bypass? New Study Says They Are Equal One Year Later

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links, New Heart Studies, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:34 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

Three coronary artery bypass grafts, a LIMA to...

Image via Wikipedia

WebMD took a closer look at a new study comparing the benefits of stenting vs. bypass.

Well-informed patients with heart disease will certainly find this new WebMD article interesting.  Patients who undergo Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG) frequently ask the question, “Why did I have to get bypass instead of stents?”  Alternately, people with stents frequently wonder how they dodged the bullet by avoiding bypass.  Many more people may be dodging the bullet in the future thanks to this new study and the continual improvement in stenting procedures.

Several years ago, the decision for bypass was made whenever someone had more than 3 blocked arteries OR a significant blockage in the heart’s main artery (called the left main).  In the study, a group of 1800 patients who traditionally might have all gone on to bypass surgery were split into 2 groups: approximately half went ahead with bypass while the other half underwent stenting instead.  The results showed the 2 groups felt similar improvement after 1 year. In addition, the rate of heart attacks or death were about the same for both groups after one year.

There were some differences noted though when you look closely. People who got stents felt better much quicker and had a faster recovery than those who had bypass.  On the other hand, people with stents were more likely to need another stenting procedure within the first year.  Also, people who had daily or weekly chest pain prior to their procedure felt more relief of their chest pain with bypass surgery by 6 months out.

While this study may lead to more stents and fewer open heart surgeries, it won’t be making bypass extinct anytime soon.  Many patients dread the idea of bypass surgery but if you have 3 or more blocked arteries AND you get chest pain at least once a week, bypass will still be highly recommended.

Read more about the study at WebMD’s article which is listed below:

March 3, 2011

How to Find Out if You Are Eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or Other Healthcare Programs

Posted in Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , at 1:37 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

A typical examination room in a doctor's office.

Image via Wikipedia

Healthcare is an expensive yet necessary part of life.  When times are tough, who do you turn to for help?

After getting bills from the doctor, hospital and testing centers you may be left wondering how you can possibly pay for it all.  Whether you had a simple doctor visit for the flu or if you were admitted to the hospital for a heart attack, you’ll probably get lightheaded when you see the bill.  Once you’re over the initial shock, then you need to work out a plan of action.  If you’re lucky enough to have a steady income, the first step is to call the doctor’s office, hospital or testing center who sent you the bill.  Most places will readily offer a payment plan with no interest and very low payments.

If you are currently unemployed or simply unable to pay for your medical bills, you may be eligible for government-funded programs like Medicaid or Medicare. The following website link offers an “Eligibility Wizard” quiz which will help you determine if you qualify for these types of programs:

http://www.realsolutions.com/healthcare/Pages/EligibilityWizard.aspx

February 17, 2011

FDA Approves New Pacemaker That is MRI-Safe

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , at 8:39 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

 

Since the beginning of pacemakers, getting a metal device in your chest has meant that you can never have a diagnostic MRI again.  Now patients have the option of getting a new MRI-safe pacemaker.

A new pacemaker was unanimously approved by the FDA last week which will change the future of cardiology.  The new Revo MRI pacemaker system is manufactured by Medtronic and is already being implanted in patients throughout the US.  It is the first and only pacemaker system which has been shown in studies to be safe during an MRI.

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a popular diagnostic test which uses very strong magnetic fields to produce images of structures inside the body.  MRI’s are frequently used to view joints, the brain and areas suspected of having cancerous tumors.  Obviously anything which is magnetic would be unsafe for metal objects inside the body.  The magnetic field created during the test creates heat and movement of metal objects.  Some deaths in the past have been reported in patients with pacemakers who underwent an MRI.

The new Revo MRI Surescan Pacing System was tested on 484 patients and found to be perfectly safe during an MRI. There are however, “Conditions of Use” which specify that all parts of the pacemaker must be part of the Revo MRI Surescan system.  This means that the leads as well as the generator have to be implanted from Medtronic’s new system.  You can’t get a “battery change-out” only and expect to undergo an MRI.  The leads would need to be replaced as well.  In addition, this new MRI-safe system also only applies to regular pacemakers.  There are no ICD’s or defibrillators available that are MRI-safe at this time.

Read more about this brand new MRI-safe pacemaker at Medtronic’s website:

http://www.medtronic.com/your-health/bradycardia/device/our-pacemakers/revo-mri-surescan/index.htm

February 9, 2011

New USDA Dietary Guidelines Criticized by the American Heart Association

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , at 11:13 am by keepyourhearthealthy


image shared from heart.org article

 

By law the US dietary guidelines have to be reviewed and updated every 5 years.  The newest guidelines came out last week with the intent of targeting an obese and hypertensive population.

The USDA guidelines are famous for their food pyramid but they also publish an updated report every 5 years.  This year they advised most Americans to cut the salt out of their diet.  Specifically they recommend reducing sodium intake to less than 2300mg per day OR 1500mg per day if you are, “51 and older,” “African American” or if you “have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.”  The guidelines go on to state that “the 1,500 mg recommendation applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children, and the majority of adults.”

If you know your dietary numbers, 1500mg of sodium per day is a tough number to stay under.  One typical fast food meal has more than 1500mg of sodium and most restaurant meals are well beyond the sodium limit as well.  The easiest way to stay under 1500mg of sodium in one day is to prepare your food at home and never use the salt shaker.

The American lifestyle makes this sodium goal a daunting task.  Yet the American Heart Association is holding the population to a higher standard and has outright criticized the Guidelines for not being strict enough.  They recommend all Americans should eat less than 1500mg of sodium per day…not just a select population.  Why?  According to the American Heart Association website, “High-sodium diets are linked to an increase in blood pressure and a higher risk for heart disease and stroke.”  For those who want to learn more about sodium, the AHA website has a very simple, yet detailed, page dedicated to this diet obstacle: Sodium (Salt or Sodium Chloride).

January 24, 2011

The Latest on Medicare Part D and Pradaxa

Posted in Heart Disease in the News, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:01 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

image by renjith krishnan

Medicare Part D is still not paying for the new Coumadin alternative, Pradaxa, but there is hope for Medicare patients looking to make the switch.

Ever since Pradaxa became the first alternative to Coumadin approved for atrial fibrillation, Medicare patients have been eagerly awaiting the announcement of prescription coverage with Medicare Part D.  Three months have gone by and some Medicare patients have already switched despite the high out-of-pocket expense.  Since Medicare does not pay for Pradaxa, patients are spending as much as $250 per month.

According to a Pradaxa representative, only the Military and Medco are currently covering Pradaxa.  The manufacturer has recommended several options though for patients on Medicare who need financial assistance.  A Savings Card is available by signing up for the Pradaxa Support Program.  The Savings Card gives Medicare and Medicaid patients one free month of Pradaxa and continued savings throughout the year. Even patients who already have coverage under companies like Blue Cross and Blue Shield can use the Savings Card to offset a high copay.  These patients will often pay only $30 a month when using their insurance and the card.

If the Savings Card is not a good option for you because you still cannot afford the cost, the Pradaxa representative suggested applying to a third-party assistance program such as Rxhope.com.  Rxhope.com can guide you through the process of receiving Pradaxa for free.  They even have an application specifically for Medicare patients who need Pradaxa.  You can also begin a financial assistance application by calling the manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim directly at 800-556-8317.

Rest assured, Pradaxa will eventually become approved for coverage by Medicare Part D.  The manufacturer is working diligently on the application process.  Until then, they are hoping patients will benefit greatly by using the Savings Card or signing up for financial assistance.  Check here for updates in the future!

January 13, 2011

The New Coumadin Alternative…What Do Patients Think About It?

Posted in Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 11:47 am by keepyourhearthealthy

image by Idea go

Pradaxa is certainly ideal when you look at how it compares to Coumadin on paper.

Pradaxa is a breakthrough Coumadin alternative that prevents more strokes than Coumadin, does not require fingerstick monitoring and has almost no major interactions with food or other drugs. It sounds like a dream come true for atrial fibrillation patients everywhere who despise Coumadin!

Now that Pradaxa is readily available to patients, what do they think? Is it the amazing new drug that many have expected it to be?  Some say “yes” and some say “no.”  One Pradaxa user posted their experience with the drug on a Pacemaker Club website online and stated they “love the convenience.” Others on the same website complained that it did not work out for them.

The biggest obstacles for many are just what Pradaxa’s manufacturer expected: price and heartburn.  First, many people have to get over the sticker-shock of paying $40 to $250 per month.  Then there’s the common side effect of heartburn.  20% of patients discontinue Pradaxa because it upsets their stomach.

One patient I spoke to stopped it because the heartburn and nausea were intolerable after a few days of switching to Pradaxa.  She eventually switched back to Coumadin and resumed her routine INR checks.  In my opinion she was more likely to get heartburn on the Pradaxa because she also suffers from a large hiatal hernia (a condition where part of the stomach is squeezed up through the diaphragm) which causes problems with acid reflux.  Pradaxa’s manufacturer has already launched a defensive campaign in order to help patients work through problems related to the drug.  Their website www.pradaxa.com offers a support program which includes a hotline and a savings card.  I personally registered for the support program over 2 weeks ago and have yet to receive a response.  Maybe they have a few kinks to work out?

Related Posts

December 16, 2010

Heart Disease Guide Website Gets New Look

Posted in Heart disease tips, Helpful Heart Links tagged , , , , , , , at 6:32 pm by keepyourhearthealthy

What To Do When You Have Heart Disease has given patients advice and peace of mind in their hands whenever they needed it most.  Now the website has an attractive new look that makes it easier to find everything you need.

Learning to live with heart disease is a challenge for anyone.  People look for all kinds of things to improve their heart health and get back to feeling “normal” again.  A book like What To Do When You Have Heart Disease provides support that can be instrumental in heart disease recovery.  The website can also help to get you started in the right direction.  Check out the website’s new look at www.theheartdiseaseguide.com and discover how the book and the webpage can help you on your journey to a healthier heart!

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