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Articles / 2008

Symposium offers heart-healthy ideas

By Cynthia Overweg
Ventura County Star
Sunday, February 10, 2008

In matters of the heart, having the right medical information at the right time can be life-saving. That was the central theme of a heart disease symposium in Camarillo on Saturday, as an audience of 300 listened to cardiovascular experts discuss the causes and risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke.

Sponsored by Community Memorial Hospital and the Ventura Heart Institute, the program was presented at the Spanish Hills Country Club and was designed to give participants free access to the latest information on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease, the nation's No. 1 killer according to the American Heart Association.

"The bad news is: Everyone dies. The good news is: You can stall," said Dr. Irving Loh, director of the Ventura Heart Institute in Thousand Oaks, and the symposium's moderator.

He told the audience that 1.5 million heart attacks occur every year in the United States; 500,000 are fatal, and half of those die before the patient arrives at the emergency room.

"Heart disease exceeds all other causes of death, and it is underappreciated in women. More women die of heart disease than men because they tend to develop it later in life," Loh said. He emphasized the importance of identifying key risk factors, such as obesity, high HDL cholesterol, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle and family history.

Once potential risks are identified through evaluation and medical testing, Loh said, a physician can suggest methods to reduce or prevent the development of the disease.

The link between heart disease and diet was also part of the symposium.

"It's not only the choice of foods you eat, but how your body uses your food," said Shirley Cox, a registered dietician at Community Memorial. She outlined a nutrition guide that she called "the good, the bad and the ugly."

On her list of the bad and ugly: prime beef, poultry with skin, organ meats, fried foods, cakes and cookies, soft drinks, dried fruit, sugar, processed foods, and anything with high fructose corn syrup.

Her recommended good foods include cold-water fish such as salmon and trout; egg whites; lean beef; skinless poultry; whole grains; legumes; fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables; plain yogurt; and olive oil.

Other speakers in the half-day program discussed state-of-the-art medical testing, innovative surgical techniques and prevention strategies.

"We wanted to fully engage our community on the issue of heart disease. It's central to our core mission as the only not-for-profit hospital in the county," said Gary Wilde, Community Memorial's president and chief executive.

Audience members seemed satisfied with what they heard.

"I have a family history of heart disease, so I came to learn more about proper care and diet," said Daniel Gabrie, 46, of Camarillo.

Ventura resident, Carol Sanger-Lemery, 65, said she came to understand more about a disease that has had a tremendous impact on her life.

"My husband died suddenly of a massive heart attack a few months ago. And my father had heart disease as well. I wanted to understand more about it," she said.

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