6 things women can do to reduce the risk of heart disease
After having a heart attack, Laura Sterner lost her means of managing her life-threatening condition. Then she found Kaiser Permanente.
Living without health insurance was about to catch up with Laura Sterner. When Kaiser Permanente cardiologist Chris Lowery, MD, first saw this new patient, he knew something was wrong. Sterner lives with a heart condition that requires a defibrillator, a medical device that keeps her heart beating regularly. She is one of millions of Americans who had lost health insurance but regained it through the Affordable Care Act.
By the time she joined Kaiser Permanente, Sterner’s potentially lifesaving device was no longer doing its job. “With the advent of the Affordable Care Act and the great influx of patients, Kaiser Permanente is stepping up to help more people who need care, including urgent care,” Dr. Lowery says. “At Kaiser Permanente, we have a great team of people who are able to identify patients at high risk who — often for reasons beyond their control — have lost their health insurance. When these patients come to us, we work as a team to expedite their care.”
HEART ASSIST DEVICE STOPPED WORKING
In 2002, Sterner was watching TV and having a cup of coffee when her heart started beating rapidly. “I could feel my heartbeat at the roof of my mouth,” she says. “Then I went into cardiac arrest. Fortunately, I had health insurance.”
Having insurance meant Sterner could have a medical device implanted to regulate her heartbeat and keep it from racing away with her life. That reprieve ended when Sterner lost her insurance in 2010, the same year her implantable cardioverter defibrillator, or ICD, stopped working properly. “I knew when the battery died,” Sterner says. “It made a beeping sound. Because I had no insurance, I let it go, so I basically was walking around for two and a half years with a dead heart pacer [defibrillator].”
NOW A KAISER PERMANENTE MEMBER
In 2014, Sterner found a Kaiser Permanente insurance plan that suited her through the Connect for Health Colorado website. Sterner’s personal physician at Kaiser Permanente referred her immediately to the cardiac care team, including Laurent Lewkowiez, MD, and Dr. Lowery. “At my first Kaiser Permanente appointment, they realized that I needed a new defibrillator,” Sterner explains. She was referred to Dr. Lowery and had surgery the next morning at Saint Joseph Hospital to implant a new defibrillator.
With the help of her care team, Sterner continues to make progress. “I am doing excellent, thanks to the care of Dr. Lewkowiez, Dr. Lowery, and staff,” Sterner says. “I am able to go out for walks without worrying about collapsing.” Confidence bestowed by her new defibrillator and oversight by her Kaiser Permanente care team are helping Sterner get her life back. She is able to pursue her bachelor’s degree in project management. “Now I have a road ahead of me,” she says, “and the world is my oyster.”
Show Your Heart Some Love
Kaiser Permanente cardiologist Chris Lowery, MD, recommends six things people can do to reduce their risk of heart disease.
1. EAT A HEALTHY DIET. Go to kp.org/livehealthy and click “Nutrition and recipes.”
2. EXERCISE REGULARLY. Get ideas for yearlong exercise at kp.org/fitness.
3. BE DILIGENT WITH MEDICATIONS. Take them as directed by your physician.
4. FOCUS ON YOUR HEALTH. People who take an active role in their health and well-being generally are healthier.
5. WATCH YOUR CHOLESTEROL AND BLOOD PRESSURE. Talk to your physician if you need help.
6. TRY AN ONLINE PROGRAM to quit smoking, manage stress, and more. Get started at kp.org/healthylifestyles.
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