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Your Healthy Family: Family doctors can be key to avoiding health disasters

Posted at 7:05 AM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-17 09:17:39-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — We're wrapping up Duane Myers’ heart story in this Your Healthy Family. When Duane was ready to have his arthritic hip replaced , he visited his primary care physician, Dr. Mark Bodman with UCHealth Aspen Creek Medical Clinic. Dr. Bodman ordered a cardiac check to clear Duane for his hip surgery. And that’s when all of Duane’s plans changed.

Before Duane could undergo a large joint replacement surgery, he needed open-heart surgery by Dr. Peter Walinsky to replace his aortic valve, mitral valve, along with a quadruple bypass. Duane now has a healthier heart and is ready to have his hip replaced in the new year planned in February or March.

There are a few things that can be learned from Duane’s story that likely all played a role in him avoiding a massive heart attack.

First, Duane knew his health issues - like his heart murmur and his family history. He says he was also having annual physicals. “I got all the proper check-ups, and my doctor was looking out for me, pointing me in the right direction, so I'm extremely lucky. My heart condition is genetic so I could have eaten kale everyday all day, and I would have had the same issues.”

Having a good relationship with his primary care physician, Dr. Mark Bodman, was also key in helping Duane discover his serious heart condition before things went south. Duane says, “He (Dr. Bodman) is someone who listens to me and understands who I am and what I need. We talked about all this in the past. Arthritis medication was part of the treatment for my hip as we were getting prepared for replacement. We knew it (a hip replacement) was going to happen, it was just a matter of when I was ready. Dr. Bodman didn't force an operation on me, but he also didn't turn me away from it when the time was right. When I asked him for the referral that is what started everything.”

Dr. Bodman says Duane is a great example of a patient who is proactive about managing his health. “Guys tend to be a little more stoic and put things off or write them off as not a big deal. You need to be careful and listen to your symptoms and get routine checks. Those are worth doing to make sure when it comes to things that we can easily screen for, that they are normal and that you don't have something underlying that could be a problem.”

Duane's message for others, as he now looks forward to his hip replacement surgery in January with a healthier heart, is pretty simple. “Be intelligent, recognize signs and understand that they're not always insignificant, they have significance. I had chest pain for quite a while, and was chalking that up to being out of shape - so don't ignore those things. Talk to your doctor and have those conversations with them. If your doctor's not listening, get a new doctor and get those things checked out - because they can kill you.”

It's a message that Dr. Bodman echoes. “If you have symptoms and if it seems like it's something that you're not used to experiencing, or a change in what you're able to do, things that you usually can do, listen to your body get and get checked out.”

Finally Dr. Peter Walinsky, Duane’s heart surgeon, urges people to pay special attention to symptoms that most people want to write off to getting old or not staying active – symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath, just like Duane had. Thankfully his hip may have saved his heart and his life.

Dr. Walinsky says, “The takeaway is, you have to be aware that heart valve disease is a significant health problem in this country. It's a significant health problem for people when they get into their 50s, 60s and 70s. It is remarkable how much valvular heart disease people can live with and not know it. A lot of that has to do with the heart's ability to compensate. The heart is a muscle just like your bicep or your quadriceps. If the aortic valve is narrowed, the heart works harder to pump the blood through a smaller opening. Just like any other muscle, it gets thicker over that time, and so it compensates to a point, and that point is when you start to develop symptoms: shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness, and passing out.”

If you have any questions about your heart health, make sure to follow up with your doctor.

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