June 22, 2011

WSU medical student creates new organization to teach healthy heart habits

A Wayne State University School of Medicine student has turned a near-fatal family tragedy into a life-changing lesson for thousands.

Courtney Moore, a second-year medical student, was visiting her parents at their home in Brighton when her father, James Moore, 63, suffered a cardiac event that nearly killed him.

"He was in mid-sentence when he just collapsed," Moore said. "I couldn't find a pulse or a heartbeat. It was sudden cardiac death."

Moore, who wants to become a cardiologist, performed chest compressions on her father until emergency medical services personnel arrived to transport him to a hospital.

Mr. Moore, who had previously suffered a stroke, is on the mend now after treatment by Wayne State University Physician Group doctors.

For many families, that is where the story would end. For the medical student, however, it was just the beginning.

Courtney Moore has turned that experience into a book, a pamphlet of recommendations for improved heart health and a new organization to improve the cardiac condition of the people of southeast Michigan, one healthy habit at a time.

Health is Where the Heart Is, an organization established by Moore, focuses on educating people about heart health through the dissemination of an easy-to-understand booklet containing easy-to-adopt practices. The organization, supported by a group of medical students and young professionals, also provides presentations on cardiac health and free hypertension screenings.

After her father's ordeal, Moore wrote a book on cardiovascular care and improvement. Weighing in at a hefty 400 pages, the book, she soon realized, was too lengthy to convince the average person to read. She scaled the book down to 75 pages filled with laymen's explanations of cardiovascular medical jargon and simple tips that readers can adopt to improve their heart health. The book is an expanded version of the 18-page pamphlet Moore's organization distributes free.

Moore is in talks with a publisher to produce 10,000 copies of "Health Is Where The Heart Is, Vol. 1." The book will sell for $10 at amazon.com and other retailers. Proceeds from sales of the book will be used to print the free pamphlets and support the work of the organization.

"I realized that no child should ever have to do what I had to do," Moore said. "I really wanted to do something now, so I developed this program."

Patient feedback on the book and pamphlet has been positive, she said. "We couldn't have gotten a better response."

Moore and the new group have their work cut out for them in tackling heart disease. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the state, and has been for more than 100 years. One out of every three deaths in the state is due to cardiovascular disease. In 2009, heart disease killed 23,044 Michiganians, placing the state ninth worst for age-adjusted mortality due to heart disease. On average, a Michigan resident dies of heart disease every 20 minutes.

The cost of cardiovascular disease in Michigan, according to the MDCH, was $9.4 billion in 2007, the latest year for which such statistics are available. In the United States, one dollar in every $6 spent on health care was for treatment related to cardiovascular disease.

One of the leading causes of cardiovascular disease is obesity, another category, sadly, in which Michigan leads, and which is fast becoming a problem for children as well as adults.

According to the 2009 "Overweight and Obesity in Michigan" report produced by the state Department of Community Health, nearly 29 percent of high school students in the state were either overweight or obese based on body mass index measurements taken in 2007. That same report showed that obesity in Michigan adults climbed 21.8 percent between 2001 and 2008 to a point where nearly 70 percent of adults in Michigan were considered overweight or obese. Michigan's 30.1 percent was the eighth highest obesity rate in the United States. After the Sanilac area (39.1 percent), Detroit had the highest prevalence of obesity at 38.1 percent.

The MDCH reported that in 2005 almost one in four Michigan adults purchased meals from a fast-food restaurant two or more times per week. Obesity rates increased in conjunction with the number of weekly visits to fast-food restaurants, from 24 percent for less than one visit per week to 32.9 percent for more than three visits per week. The chances of a Michiganian being obese are nearly 60 percent greater for those eating fast food two or more times weekly, according to the 2009 "Overweight and Obesity in Michigan Surveillance Report."

We also are eating less nutritiously. The MDCH says that in 2008, 78.3 percent of adults in the state ate an inadequate amount of fruit and vegetables. It was worse for children -- 83 percent consumed inadequate amounts of fruit and vegetables, and nearly 30 percent drank at least one non-diet soda or soft drink daily.
Moore's book offers categories of activities - good, better, ideal - in areas of diet, exercise and other tips that readers can incorporate for improved heart health. She said she realized the need for such instruction after interacting with patients who seemed resigned to a life of poor health after receiving a diagnosis from a doctor.

"We were really setting them up for failure," she said. "We need to encourage them to be a part of the solution for their own health. They don't have to be perfect, but they don't have to accept a life with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease simply because the doctor tells them that's what they have. It's about patient empowerment and making incremental changes."

The organization held its inaugural fundraiser June 17 at Rosie O'Grady's bar in Ferndale. The sale of Health is Where the Heart Is shirts and water bottles, a silent auction and song dedications attracted more than 75 people and raised $755 to purchase additional pamphlets for distribution. "We were really touched by the outpouring of support," said Moore, who serves as president of Health Is Where The Heart Is.

Now the group is out to keep the rhythm of that momentum beating strong.

For more information about Health Is Where The Heart Is, contact Moore at (248) 444-7376 or cmoore@med.wayne.edu.

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