February is American Heart Month, and doctors are urging you to stay heart-healthy

Posted at 5:45 AM, Feb 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-02 09:51:37-05

American Heart Awareness Month is all about raising awareness for heart health. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America and in Michigan.

According to the CDC, Michigan is ranked seventh in the nation for the number of deaths per year related to heart disease and stroke.

In 2022, heart disease claimed the lives of other 27,000 Michiganders.

The most common misconception is that heart disease only affects older adults. In fact, it's actually on the rise in younger people.

Tammie Keebaugh is a wife, grandmother, mother, and runs her own company in metro Detroit. At 56 years old, she lives a very active and busy lifestyle, but in 2008, was diagnosed with diabetes.

Fast forward to November 2022, and Keebaugh began experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue. That's when she went to see her cardiologist who said she had a blockage.

"They said it was significant. We had a couple of areas that were really blocked. A few of them were over 90%," she said.

Her cardiologist referred her to Dr. Amir Kaki at Ascension St. John Hospital. He's an interventional cardiologist and the director of mechanical circulatory support.

"She had critical blockages of the main artery to the heart and it was over 90 percent. And conventionally or traditionally, the standard for blockage in that location is open heart surgery," Kaki said.

Because of the blockage, Keebaugh's heart was weak. Kaki decided to avoid open heart surgery and chose a cutting-edge new option in the world of heart medicine.

He installed the Impella, the world's smallest heart pump, along with two stents in her arteries that would restore the vital blood flow to her heart.

"What this pump does is it allows us to do the procedure in a very safe fashion and supports the blood preasure and allowing us to do the procedure safely and really meticulously," he said.

She returned home just one day after the surgery, a week after she was told she needed open heart surgery.

"I am the person who takes care of everyone, and so in doing that, sometimes you forgot to take care of yourself," she said.

Corewell Health cardiologist Dr. Justin Trivax said technology in cardiovascular medicine has come a long way, even in the past five years, but says the key to prevention is maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

"It's maintaining a healthy weight, controlling blood sugar, controlling cholesterol, identifying and treating blood pressure. That means you have to go to your doctor to see what's going on with your blood pressure," he said. "My favorite thing to explain, because it's very straight forward, is exercise. You need to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week."