CPRMC medical staff discusses cardiac care, diet, prevention of stroke and heart attack

Dr. Stellingworth discusses healthy habits to minimize or even prevent the symptoms of stroke and heart attack. Pictured here (left to right): Susan Wayne (Quality Coordinator), Dr. Mark Stellingworth (Cardiologist and Chief of Staff), Rebecca Van-Derpoel (Director of Cardiopulmonary, Speech and Sleep Studies), Steve Thompson (Darlington County EMS), Ashley Johnson (Stroke and Chest Pain Coordinator), and Kim Alton (Director of Food and Nutrition Services). PHOTO BY STEPHAN DREW

By Stephan Drew, Editor


On Wednesday, February 15, 2023, a panel of medical staff held a “Lunch and Learn” at Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center (CPRMC) to discuss with the public the risks of heart attack and stroke, as well as medications, treatments, proper diet, exercise and other changes to improve one’s health and, possibly, prevent more serious complications.

On hand were Dr. Mark Stellingworth (Cardiologist and Chief of Staff for CPRMC), Susan Wayne (RRT, RVT, RDCS and CPRMC Quality Coordinator), Kim Alton (RD, CSSD, LD and Director of Food and Nutrition Services for CPRMC), Ashley Johnson (BSN, RN and CPRMC Stroke and Chest Pain Coordinator), Rebecca Van-Derpoel (RRT, RCP and Director of Cardiopulmonary, Speech and Sleep Services for CPRMC), and Steve Thompson (RN/NRP and EMS First Responder).

Articulating a simple rule of thumb for meat, Kim Alton stated, “The more feet, the more fat,” describing how multi-legged animals have an increased amount of fat while fish (with no legs at all) contain the least amount of fat. Alton stressed that making dietary changes helps strengthen and improve heart health. “But, diet alone doesn’t help enough,” she said,  “You need to exercise.” Alton recommended at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. “You don’t have to do it all at one time,” Alton stated, “Walking or biking 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week is good.” She also recommended 75 minutes of strenuous activity per week. This would include lifting small weights, running or other strenuous exercise.

Dr. Mark Stellingworth discussed the changes which occur over years through poor diet, lack of exercise and other bad habits which contribute to poor cardiac health. Emphasizing that new and effective medications and treatments are now available, Stellingworth listed a multitude of medications for treatment of various cardiac conditions. When asked what is the number one contributor to poor cardiac health, Stellingworth did not hesitate. “Obesity,” he said. Stellingworth also had some very serious advice for anyone who believes they may be suffering from cardiac arrest. “If you feel like you’re having a heart attack,” he stated, “DO NOT drive yourself to the hospital.” He reminded the audience that, although you may feel like you can drive, you may end up harming yourself or others on the road if it gets worse while you’re en route to seek medical attention. “Call EMS,” he suggested, “They can monitor and treat you while you’re on the way to the hospital.”

Susan Wayne reminded those gathered, “Call 911, don’t take chances. EMS will contact us immediately so that we will be ready for you,” she said, “medical staff can begin treatment as soon as you hit the door.” She continued, “The worst thing you can do is ignore the symptoms and do nothing.”

Rebecca Van-Derpoel discussed sleep apnea studies. Sleep apnea is a serious disruption in breathing, leading to loss of oxygen during sleep. Continued loss of oxygen can be a contributing factor to poor heart health. Van-Derpoel stated that, during Sleep Studies at the hospital, staff will be on hand, during the night, to monitor patients, can visualize any disturbances and act quickly to stabilize a patient’s breathing while the sleep study is progressing. They may administer what is called a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, which delivers one consistent airflow pressure which is set by your doctor. This provides continuous airflow which allows full oxygenation of blood, thereby decreasing the chances of heart damage due to low oxygen saturation.

Ashley Johnson described the symptoms of stroke and key factors in identify them. “Eye and face drooping,” she said, “slurred speech and loss of balance are some symptoms that you may have had a stroke.” She recommended those who think they’ve had a stroke to use the BE FAST test. B = Balance – any changes in your gait (walking) or loss of balance may be a symptom. E = Eyes/Vision – any changes in your vision or sensation in the eye area need to be checked by a physician. F = Facial droop – notice whether any part of your face seems to sag. A = Arm/Leg weakness. S = Speech – changes in your speech or slurring your words. T = Time to call 911. There is a limited time (3 – 3.5 hours) in which to administer drugs and treatment in order to stop and possibly reverse the effects of a stroke.

Steve Thompson discussed the role of First Responders in a cardiac or stroke crisis and how important it is to monitor and recognize the symptoms of stroke and heart attack. He explained a STEMI and how critical it is to receive treatment as soon as possible. A ST-elevated Myocardial Infarction is an event where the entire thickness of the heart muscle loses oxygen and begins to slowly die. This is a condition which must be recognized and treated immediately. Most EMS workers are trained to spot the symptoms and are highly skilled at stabilizing patients until they can reach a medical facility and receive treatment.

At the close of the discussion, Dr. Stellingworth urged community cooperation, care and concern for one another. “We are a community hospital,” he said, “We serve the community but we ARE the community. It’s a team effort.”

Author: Stephan Drew

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