Passavant Hospital Health symposium can do the heart some good

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Passavant Hospital Foundation wants to make sure no one's heart misses a beat.

It is bringing together physicians and other health care professionals to provide information to the public during the 2013 Heart & Stroke Symposium on May 2 at Cumberland Woods Village, 700 Cumberland Woods Drive, McCandless.

The free symposium is part of the foundation's Extending the Care, or ETC, series, and everyone is invited, said Jean Wagner, Passavant Hospital Foundation vice president and symposium organizer.

“We are offering this event in response to the community's request to have such an opportunity to learn about heart attacks and strokes,” said Wagner, of Hampton Township.

The daylong event has three components. The first is a series of five one-hour lectures given by University of Pittsburgh Medical Center physicians. The talks will focus on different aspects of heart health and stroke prevention and care. Questions from the audience will be answered at the end of each presentation, Wagner said.

Dr. Michael Fallert, chairman of the department of cardiology at UPMC Passavant, will give a lecture on “Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke Prevention” at the symposium. Atrial fibrillation is a heart-rhythm abnormality that is very common to an aging population, Fallert said.

“Unfortunately, this is a major risk factor for stroke,” Fallert said. “But it's also something that can be prevented with the use of medications like blood thinners.”

Fallert, of Fox Chapel, also is the assistant director of clinical cardiology at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute and said the number of treatment options for atrial fibrillation can be confusing to most people with the condition.

“I'm going to talk about the importance of medications and how to work through the decision of which ones to take and why,” Fallert said.

People in the medical field who attend all five of the physician lectures will receive a certificate for continuing-education credit, Wagner said.

The second component of the symposium is two talks, each featuring an individual who has had either a heart attack or stroke. They will discuss their experiences and recovery and answer questions.

The third part of the symposium is a health-resource fair that will include screenings and assessments of blood-glucose levels, total cholesterol and blood pressure and the calculation of body mass index. Tests for breathing function and cardiovascular health also will be available, Wagner said.

Organizations such as the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association will hand out literature to visitors, but all of the physician lecturers and the majority of exhibitors are from UPMC, Wagner said.

“This is an opportunity to showcase the work of the hospital departments and to showcase the staff and physicians,” Wagner said.

California Pizza Kitchen will have staff at the show to give heart-healthy cooking demonstrations and also will provide bagged lunches for attendees for $5 each. Meals must be ordered in advance.

The Passavant Hospital Foundation is a separate organization from UPMC and has the mission of supporting the hospital that now is UPMC Passavant.

The ETC programs began in 2003 and attract people from 11 counties surrounding Passavant, Wagner said.

In 2012, the foundation helped fund nearly 200 programs that served more than 15,000 people, said Ralph DeStefano, foundation president and CEO.

“I have seen our ETC programs grow exponentially over the past few years,” said DeStefano, of West Deer Township.

The foundation has done symposiums on diabetes, autism, women's health, and many others in the past, but this will be the first one dealing with heart health and stroke prevention, Wagner said.

“We want the community to come out and learn about how they can prevent heart disease and stroke,” she said.

Melanie Donahoo is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media

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