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Go Red or (907) 456-3659

INSIDE: • Reduce risk of heart disease • Recognize warning signs • Celebrate survivors

Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in America and the second leading cause of death for Alaskans?



Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, February 14, 2013

TABLE OF CONTENTS Stories of survival: Aubrey ....... 3 Stories of survival: Sharon ...... 4 Hands-only CPR ..................... 5 Keepers: Handy references .. 5-8 Resources and contacts ......... 6 High blood pressure ............... 7 Healthier lifestyle ................... 8 Stories of survival: Andrea ...... 9 Food for the heart ................ 10

How well do you know your heart? or (907) 456-3659


Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, February 14, 2013

Stay informed

Stories of survival: Aubrey 10-year-old thrives despite heart condition that nearly took her life By AMANDA BOHMAN For the News-Miner


ubrey Spillane likes cats, owls, American Girl dolls and the library. She draws and plays the piano and flute. When she grows up, she wants to be a veterinarian or chef. Spillane is like most 10-year-old girls except for one thing. She has a heart condition. Heart disease for the fourth grader means monthly blood pressure checks, trips to a pediatric cardiologist in Anchorage and a pressing need to exercise and eat healthy. Someday in the future, she will likely need angioplasty, surgery to expand an artery. Spillane is one of the lucky ones. Her mother, preschool teacher Michelle Spillane, remembers a conversation with Aubrey’s surgeon in the days following her birth. The infant was born with coarctation of the aorta,

which is the narrowing of the largest artery in the body. Aubrey’s aorta was almost completely crimped. She stopped breathing and was taken on an emergency flight to a hospital in Portland. “I had flown on the medevac flight, while Dan (Aubrey’s father) had to fly commercially so he hadn’t arrived yet,” Spillane said in an email. “As they wheeled her away, the surgeon said they hadn’t seen a case this severe and wouldn’t be able to guarantee she’d make it.” An ultrasound can reveal the condition, but somehow Aubrey’s narrow artery was missed, her mother said. The surgery was a success. A photo of Aubrey taken four months after her surgery shows a joyful baby with bright eyes and creamy skin, chewing on the leg of a stuffed lion. Aubrey doesn’t take her good health for granted. Please see AUBREY, Page 4

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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, February 14, 2013

Stories of survival: Sharon Heart disease runs in the family By MARY BETH SMETZER


eart disease is familiar territory for Sharon Boko, 74. She lost both her parents and her husband to heart disease. Her father, Jay Johnson suffered his first stroke at age 50, was disabled, and died of a second stroke five years later. Her mother, Elsie Johnson, was 59 when she experienced her first stroke and died of heart disease at age 71.

Boko’s husband, Bob, had a heart attack at age 53, a triple bypass in 1989, and was 73 when he died of a massive heart attack in 2005. Yet, when Sharon was on the brink of what most likely would have been a fatal heart attack, she had no idea she was at risk. “I, of all people, knew all of the signs of heart disease, but as a woman, I did not recognize any of my signs,” she said. Eric Engman/News-Miner

Please see SHARON, Page 11

AUBREY: Lifestyle choices key Continued from Page 3

She traced a finger along her torso, showing the path of a thin, faint scar — physical evidence of a surgery she doesn’t remember. Avoiding salt is hard, she said. Exercising isn’t. Aubrey skis in the winter and plays soccer in the summer. Gym is one of her favorite classes. “Always stay active so you can do the things you want in life. Nothing will stop you” is her advice to other young heart patients. Aubrey has lobbied Congress on behalf of the American Heart Association to support increased physical fitness for school children. She knows that lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise, are a huge factor in determining who gets heart disease and who doesn’t.

In Aubrey’s case, the heart disease is congenital, meaning present at birth. Michelle Spillane said she could locate no other relative who has suffered from coarctation of the aorta. Aubrey’s prognosis is good. At the last doctor’s visit, the cardiologist said Aubrey’s artery appears “wide open,” her mother said, so they don’t expect the angioplasty to take place for a while. Aubrey takes no medication. She has no restrictions on her physical activity. The monthly blood pressure checks are to make sure Aubrey’s blood pressure doesn’t spike. “If I don’t take care of myself, I might have to take medication,” Aubrey said. She played a few notes on her flute and gave a tour of her room. Tacked on a bulletin

Sharon Boko is pictured Jan. 29.

Photo courtesy Michelle Spillane

Aubrey Spillane, 10, has a heart condition. Aubrey was born with coarctation of the aorta, which is the narrowing of the largest artery in the body. Aubrey’s aorta was almost completely crimped. She stopped breathing and was taken on an emergency flight to a hospital in Portland. board were pictures of cats with descriptions of their breeds. She joked that her family can’t have a cat because their dog might eat it. One of her teachers told Aubrey that she should get her own talk show because she likes to crack jokes. She has a betta fish named Rose even though it is male. “I know my heart is there, but I don’t necessarily feel it,” she said. “I feel like my health is pretty good.” Contact writer Amanda Bohman at

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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, February 14, 2013

Push until help arrives. The goal is to manually pump blood through the heart. “This is another form of CPR for people who have uncomfortable feelings about mouth-to-mouth,” said Michell Daku, director of the American Red Cross of AlaskaTanana Valley. “Some assistance is better than no assistance.” Studies show heart attack victims who receive hands-only CPR have nearly the same survival rate as those who receive the

HANDS-ONLY CPR 1. Call 911 or ask someone to do it. 2. Kneel down on one side of the victim. 3. Put the heel of one hand on the center of the chest. 4. Put your other hand on top of the first. 5. Interlock your fingers. 6. Push hard and fast on the center of the chest until help arrives.

Please see CPR, Page 7

Source: www.handsonly

Every person now living in Alaska knows someone who will die as a result of either heart disease or stroke. Lower your risk of developing heart disease by watching your weight, eating healthy foods, staying active and managing your stress.


reference to reminders and contact information


woman clutches her chest and collapses in front of you. What do you do? There’s an app for that. Download it, it’s free, and you can listen to a video in which the narrator, in a reassuring voice bringing to mind iPhone’s Siri, instructs the listener on how to conduct Hands-Only CPR. The hands-only method — essentially CPR without the mouthto-mouth — is sanctioned by the

American Heart Association. It’s the method 911 dispatchers instruct callers to use on adults who collapse and appear unresponsive. It’s become the standard intervention of the lay public in recent years after decades of chest compressions plus mouth-to-mouth, traditional CPR. The instructions for handsonly CPR are simple: After 911 is called, put one hand over the other and push hard on the middle of the person’s chest. The tempo of pushing should be about the same tempo as the song “Stayin’ Alive.”

Keepers: Hold on to Pages 5-8 for quick

By AMANDA BOHMAN For the News-Miner

Go Red

Hands-only CPR deemed simple, life-saving


Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, February 14, 2013

Go Red

RESOURCES AND CONTACTS Time for a checkup? American Heart Association, Fairbanks Division P.O. Box 71717 Fairbanks, AK 99707

CPR, AED, and First Aid training 1-877-AHA-4CPR

American Heart Association, Fairbanks division: or (907) 456-3659

Heart Hub for Patients The American Heart Association’s patient portal to help you understand and manage your health.

American Heart Association 1-800-AHA-USA-1 1-888-474-VIVE American Stroke Association 1-888-4-STROKE 1-888-474-VIVE Go Red For Women Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. Learn how to love your heart and safeguard your health. Heart 360® Heart360® is an online tool to help track and manage your heart health and provides helpful advice and information. Enter your health information in an easyto-use tool, and your records will be safely and securely stored in Microsoft® HealthVault™.

Heart Walk, May 18 2013 The American Heart Association’s annual walk at Veteran’s Memorial Park welcomes survivors, community teams, and corporate teams. (907) 456-3659 Mended Hearts Mended Hearts, a national nonprofit organization, helps heart patients and their families by offering hope and improving quality of life through peer-topeer support. 1-888-432-7899 My Heart. My Life. The American Heart Association’s guide to living a healthier life.

Lower your risk of developing heart disease by watching your weight, eating healthy foods, staying active and managing your stress.



Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, February 14, 2013

Do I have it? Many people have it and don’t know. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high is to get it checked regularly by your doctor.

CPR: Hands-only has nearly same survival rate as mouth-to-mouth Continued from Page 5

chest compressions with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Officials hope to increase the number of people willing to intervene, saving more lives. “A lot of times when people go into cardiac arrest, there is vomit. There is blood,” said Bill “Rocky” Rockwell, a firefighter and paramedic at the Fairbanks Fire Department. “People

are more willing to get involved and do it if they are just doing chest compressions. “That gives the person a greater chance of survival than somebody standing there looking at them,” Rockwell added. The Red Cross continues to teach the traditional CPR method — mouthto-mouth plus chest compressions, according to Daku. “It saves lives every single day and it is a skill

that everybody needs to learn,” Daku said. “We talk about (hands-only CPR) but we don’t promote it. It is an option.” Mouth-to-mouth is still in the protocol for situations such as drowning, an asthma attack, a drug overdose and young children who collapse. Stephanie Johnson, manager of the Fairbanks Emergency Communications Center, said dispatchers rarely

receive those types of calls. Calls involving adults with heart problems are a different story. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is a leading cause of death in America with about 600,000 deaths per year. Cancer came in second with about 575,000 deaths. It’s unclear if the new CPR method has boosted the survival rate for heart

attack victims in Fairbanks. Dispatchers on a recent shift said they noticed no uptick in Good Samaritans. People have always been willing to help, Johnson said, even if it means giving someone mouth-to-mouth. “The kind of callers we get, generally, they are willing to help,” she said. Contact freelance writer Amanda Bohman at aknews

Call 9-1-1 or have someone drive you to the nearest emergency facility

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. High blood pressure means the pressure in your arteries is higher than it should be. Another name for high blood pressure is hypertension.

Blood pressure higher than 180/110 is an emergency

Go Red

What is high blood pressure?


Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, February 14, 2013

Take a few minutes to write them down before you visit your healthcare provider

Go Red Have questions for the doctor or nurse?

HOW CAN I LEARN MORE? 1. Talk to your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professionals. If you have heart disease or have had a stroke, members of your family also may be at higher risk. It’s important to make changes now to lower their risk. 2. Call 1-800-AHAUSA1 (1-800-2428721) or visit heart. org to learn more about heart disease. 3. For information on stroke, call 1-888-4STROKE (1-888-4787653) or visit us at StrokeAssociation.or.g

The American Heart Association has many other fact sheets to help you make healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage disease or care for a loved one. Visit answersbyheart to learn more.


Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, February 14, 2013

Stories of survival: Andrea Living with a hole in her heart By MARY BETH SMETZER


Eric Engman/News-Miner

Andrea Barker is seen Jan. 30.

ndrea Barker lived the first 42 years of her life oblivious to a hole in her heart — an actual physical opening between the left and right atria (upper chambers) of the heart, called a patent foramen ovale, that failed to close naturally after birth. As Barker grew up there were few physical signs that she was walking around with the abnormality. “I’m overweight, and even as a kid I couldn’t keep up with the other kids.” As a junior high student, Barker remembers feeling sick to her stomach at school and waking up on the washroom floor. In addition to fatigue, the most common symptom she

experienced daily, occurred when she would lie down. “My heart would kind of clunk and readjust,” she said. But life went on. Barker became a certified realtor, worked with her mother in the family realty business, married and bore two daughters. In 2007, when the girls were ages 6 and 3, the family was preparing to go out, taking two different vehicles. Barker was going to drop off her daughters at daycare and then meet up with her husband at a health club. Fortunately, Barker’s husband decided to linger at home until she and the girls were ready to depart. “The last thing I remember, I was drinking coffee and my speech was blurring, and then nothing,” she said. When she regained con-

sciousness, her husband was rubbing her back and there was coffee everywhere. “I immediately felt sick to my stomach and had an excruciating headache,” she said. Barker had suffered a stroke that in turn triggered a seizure. Her husband wanted to take her immediately to the hospital, but Barker who really wasn’t fully aware of what had happened, held off until she took a shower and cleaned up. Today, six years later, Barker realizes with lucid certainty what she should have done. If she had been home alone without the prodding and support of her husband to go right to the hospital, the outcome could have been far worse, even fatal. Please see ANDREA, Page 11

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Eat plants, reduce risk of heart disease By AMANDA BOHMAN For the News-Miner


o meat. No milk. No eggs. No oil. The best diet for optimal heart health, to prevent or reverse heart disease, is a plant-based diet, according to Fairbanks cardiologist Romel Wrenn. “It’s better to be a vegetarian,” the doctor said. Wrenn cited three studies. All point to a plant-based diet as a sure way to avoid heart disease. It’s the No. 1 killer in America and it’s preventable, Wrenn said. “There are some problems associated with genetics, but those are few,” he said. One study Wrenn cited is outlined in the book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. The Cleveland Clinic physician followed a group of heart patients after prescribing a diet containing no more than 10 percent of calories from fat. Some patients also took cholesterollowering medication. According to Esselstyn, five of the 22 patients dropped out. Of the 17 who maintained the diet, 11 had their cholesterol measured bi-weekly. “They had no more problems,” Wren said. In another book, “The China Study: Startling

Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and LongTerm Health,” father and son researchers T. Colin and Thomas Campbell studied the eating habits of thousands of people in China. They claim that people who eat mostly plants suffer from fewer illnesses than people whose diet includes animal proteins. Finally, Wrenn cited “The Blue Zone: Lessons For Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.” In the book, author Dan Buettner teamed with National Geographic to determine where on earth people are living the longest. They found five places where residents tended to live long lives: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, Calif.; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece. The oldest residents of the cities had a few things in common. For one, they are active. They quit eating before they feel full and they don’t eat late at night. Beans, soy and lentils dominate their diet. Meat is consumed about five times per month. The residents also were found to have great purpose in their lives, a religious faith and mechanisms for dealing with stress. Please see FOOD, Page 11

RECOMMENDED READING Fairbanks cardiologist Romel Wrenn’s suggested heart health reading list: “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. This book is featured in Dr. Oz’s Book Corner and reportedly influenced former President Bill Clinton to adopt a healthier diet. Esselstyn describes his 20-year nutrition study of heart patients at the Cleveland Clinic. “The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health,” by father and son

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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, February 14, 2013

ANDREA: Physical, mental effects Continued from Page 9

“Don’t wait. Call 911” is a mantra Barker now repeats over and over again, especially to women who have unusual physical symptoms that could be a warning that all is not right with one’s heart. An ultrasound pinpointed the PFO heart defect and it was corrected surgically in Anchorage with a CardioSeal, a non-invasive surgery. Barker was out of the hospital the next day, feeling well but mentally drained. Because of the seizure she couldn’t drive for six months and couldn’t return immediately to her realty work. “I didn’t have physical side effects, but I had anxiety attacks,” Barker said. “It took two years to get over it mentally, to figure out the numbing in my face and do research. Sometimes the research scares you,” she said, alluding to learning how close she came to dying.

Counseling and naturopathy massage treatment helped her recover. “The new (Fairbanks Memorial Hospital) heart center also gave me hope and comfort,” Barker said. In the six years since, Barker continues to exercise and experience good health. “I feel great,” she said, adding “My heart no longer clunks.” Barker opened her own business, Alaska A La Carte Realty, a flat fee real estate company. She had her daughters tested to ascertain they haven’t inherited what most likely is a hereditary heart defect. She joined the Go Red campaign and Heart Walk in 2009, and is promoting the need for heart defect tests for babies at birth. And she continues to tell women if they feel something isn’t right, it probably isn’t and they need to take the time to take care of themselves. “If that saves one person, that’s all that matters to me,” Barker said. Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.

SHARON: Watch for warning signs Continued from Page 4

Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.

Continued from Page 10

Naturopathic Doctor Scott Moser said stress management and diet are the most common areas he works on with heart patients. Moser, who works at the Alaska Center for Natural Medicine, explores four pillars of health with all of his patients, including heart patients. The pillars are diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. “It’s really hard to overcome illness or disease if you don’t have a solid foundation,” the naturopath said. “Diet is probably the biggest thing we talk about. What I really try to get people away from is processed foods.” What is a processed food? “If you look at the food labels and there are words that you can’t even say, that’s a processed food,” Moser said. Moser recommends eating fish, namely salmon and cod, once or twice per week. Other meat should be wild or organic. Mass-produced meat is a no-no, Moser said, because of pesticides in

the feed. “Those toxins are stored in animal fat,” Moser said. A clear list of which foods to eat and which to avoid is available on the Web site for the Mayo Clinic, www. The Mayo Clinic encourages people to eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, rice, whole-wheat bread, ground flaxseed, skim milk, egg whites, fish, legumes, tofu and lean ground meat. The list of foods to shun is long, including coconut, syrupy canned fruit, fried vegetables, muffins, white bread, granola bars, cake, pie and buttered popcorn. Butter, gravy, egg yolks, cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs and soy sauce are also to be avoided, according to the clinic. “If you don’t have disease and you are trying to maintain health, one should minimize the amount of animal protein in the diet,” the cardiologist, Wrenn, said. Contact freelance writer Amanda Bohman at Associated Press file photo

Beets for sale are seen at a farmers market. The best diet for optimal heart health, to prevent or reverse heart disease, is a plant-based diet, according to Fairbanks cardiologist Romel Wrenn. “It’s better to be a vegetarian,” the doctor said.



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That was in 2007, and ever since that close call the former teacher has made it her mission to educate women about what they should look out for. “I’m always telling women we don’t present like men do for heart disease. Sometimes it’s just having discomfort or being tired all the time. Most women don’t have pain in the arm or tightening in the chest like men,” she said. “I have told as many people as I can about this. The biggest thing is to listen to your body, and if your body isn’t feeling right, you are the only one who can tell. “If you are not sure (about symptoms), talk to your doctor,” she recommends. When Boko finally make an appointment and talked to her doctor about her tiredness and shortness of breath, he took it very seriously. He knew Boko, her usual high energy level and penchant for moving household furniture around regularly, and ordered tests that came back inconclusive. The Heart Center at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital wasn’t open yet, so her doctor sent her down to Anchorage for an angiogram. Test results showed three veins to her heart were 95 percent to 98 percent blocked. She was hospitalized and underwent triple bypass surgery the next day.

“By the grace of God and my doctor, I survived,” she said. Boko has been involved with the local branch of the American Heart Association, the Go Red women’s luncheon and the annual Heart Walk since 2008. That same year the AMA tapped her to represent Alaska and sent her to Washington, D.C., to lobby state congressional representatives involved in developing legislation to support research of women’s heart disease since its symptoms vary so greatly from men’s symptoms. A bill passed to that effect and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of the main sponsors from the beginning, Boko said. Following her surgery, and the opening of the FMH Heart Center, Boko changed her diet and lifestyle. She joined the heart center’s rehab program, learned all about diet and exercise, participated in its workout program twice per week, and lost 40 pounds. “It kept me honest and watching my diet and exercising,” she said. Although Boko has laid low since last fall because of pelvic stress fractures incurred during a long, rigorous hike, she continues to watch her diet as she heals, and carry on her mission to educate women about heart disease.

FOOD: What to eat, what to avoid


Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, February 14, 2013

February is American Heart Month. To learn more about heart disease and how to prevent the second leading cause of death in Alaska visit:


Go Red 2013  

• Reduce risk of heart disease • Recognize warning signs • Celebrate survivors

Go Red 2013  

• Reduce risk of heart disease • Recognize warning signs • Celebrate survivors