DSC_0511You might think you’ll never be impacted by a heart attack. But when seconds count – and every second does when your heart stops working properly – do you know what to do?

“The number of heart attack patients eligible for treatment is expected to grow over the next 10 years. Our population is getting older and heart disease is on the rise,” said Dr. J. Bradley Oldemeyer of University of Colorado Health Cardiology.

The American Heart Association projects that 720,000 Americans will have a heart attack this year, up from 715,000 in 2013. While some heart attacks may look like something out of a movie – a sudden, shocking pain causing someone to clutch their chest before passing out – usually, heart attack symptoms start slowly.

Heart attack symptoms have been described as:

  • Chest discomfort, like pressure, squeezing or pain.
  • Discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck or jaw.
  • Shortness of breath, sweating, nausea or lightheadedness.

These symptoms may arise with activity or after meals, but can also occur at rest or when awakened from sleep, and should never be taken lightly.

What to do.

When you or someone around you is experiencing a heart attack, have someone call 9-1-1.

Data from Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado shows that patients who called 9-1-1 for signs and symptoms of a heart attack had blood flow restored to their heart 30 minutes sooner than those who drove themselves to the ER.

When you call for an ambulance, emergency medical services professionals can start treatment on the way to the hospital that not only saves time, but potentially saves a life. Additionally, EMS professionals help the cardiac team be prepared to receive heart attack patients immediately upon arrival at the hospital.

If you believe you are having a heart attack, do not drive. If your symptoms worsen you may cause an accident.

The faster the balloon, the better.

When a heart attack patient arrives at the hospital, the cardiac team works quickly to administer a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), such as angioplasty. This is often referred to as “door to balloon time.” Lower door-to-balloon times equate to less heart damage, fewer complications and a return to normal activities after a heart attack.

At Medical Center of the Rockies, the average door-to-balloon time is 43 minutes, which is less than half the national goal of 90 minutes. In fact, approximately 29 percent of patients had a door-to-balloon time of less than 30 minutes in 2013.

Prevention first.

Minimize your risk of heart disease and heart attacks by developing a plan with your physician. To learn your risk of heart disease and to start a discussion with your doctor, take a short quiz at care.uchealth.org/heart.

Randi Freeman works in the marketing department for University of Colorado Health in northern Colorado.

By Nicole Caputo

A movement grows through participation, passion and energy. This movement – the Healthy Kids Club Schools on the Move 5210 Challenge–started with one northern Colorado school district. Ten years later, it has Schools on the Move Challengegrown to seven school districts from Brighton to Walden encompassing 84 elementary schools and thousands of students, staff and family members.

Each February, northern Colorado elementary schools make a pledge to be active and eat healthy by adopting 5210 to their daily routine. The Schools on the Move 5210 Challenge, a University of Colorado Health program, asks all participants to track healthy habits through 5210.

What is 5210?

Each day participants need to:

  • Eat five servings of fruits and veggies.
  • Limit recreational screen time to less than two hours.
  • Be active for at least one hour.
  • Drink zero sugary drinks.

Up to $1,500 in prize money is awarded to schools with the highest percentage of participants and 23 winners are announced in three different categories, large school, small school and Weld-area schools. All prize money is used toward P.E. equipment or wellness initiatives.

Last year, Healthy Kids Club added a video challenge. Each school had the opportunity to create a video that showcases active, healthy learning. The top three videos were chosen by the community with over 3,500 votes. Video challenge winners are also awarded prize money.

The videos showcase the dedication and excitement these schools have for wellness and many of the videos are produced by the kids, said Laurie Zenner, manager, University of Colorado Health Healthy Kids Club. “It [the video challenge] is a creative way for participants to highlight ‘wellness in action’ at their schools and we hope the videos will inspire others to 5210,” said Zenner.

Schools on the Move logoAll participating schools have innovative ways to get kids and staff motivated throughout the month, such as individual challenges and classroom games.

At B.F. Kitchen in Loveland, the school secretary keeps everyone on their toes by tracking down staff and teachers to make sure logs are being filled out. They also had a daily challenge announced each morning to keep the students excited.

“The Schools on the Move 5210 Challenge has provided conversations and connections about healthy habits with families. The 5210 language becomes common during the month; it’s a new energy that is building positive momentum for this generation,” said Kristin Quere, B.F. Kitchen physical education teacher.

UCHealth’s Healthy Kids Club has been teaching kids healthy habits for 16 years. “Healthy kids learn better. It’s that simple. Each year, we see more participants and more creative approaches to teaching 5210,” said Zenner.

The Schools on the Move 5210 Challenge is a movement powered by pure energy and passion. Everyone can adopt 5210 to their daily routine. Join the movement.

Nicole Caputo is a marketing strategist for University of Colorado Health in northern Colorado.


Sharon Hastings gives a giant hug to nurse Annette Ferri on Feb. 13, 2014, in the cardiac intensive care unit at Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. One year earlier, Sharon was a patient in the unit and fighting for her life.

One year ago today, Sharon Hastings celebrated Valentine’s Day with her husband, Bill, in an unlikely place – Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland.

Sharon had survived cardiac arrest thanks to the quick, live-saving actions of her daughter Julia who performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) after finding her mother on their living room floor.

“I had no idea if I was going to prepare for a funeral or 20 to 30 years of profound disability,” Bill said. “We were gearing up for the very worst and we got the very best. She woke up on Valentine’s Day – how cool is that?”


Bill, Julia, Lauren, and Sharon Hastings are pictured on the front of a special Valentine postcard they created to thank everyone who supported the family after Sharon’s heart stopped on the morning of Feb. 12, 2013.

A year later, the Hastings family said thank you to the Cardiac Intensive Care staff for the care they provided by delivering Valentine’s Day candies and postcards with a message of appreciation.

Cardiac nurse Annette Ferri spent the most shifts caring for Sharon, assuring her family through every single step in her care.

“We love celebrating like this,” said Annette. “That’s the nice thing with this unit. Continuity of care is great.” Annette explained that the nurses on this unit get to know their patients and families well because they spend a lot of time with them.

Today Sharon is still on the road to recovery, but the Hastings said they all survived this past year together.

Read more about Sharon and how her life was saved here and here.


The Hastings family left special Valentine candies and post cards for the staff of the cardiac intensive care unit at Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the day Sharon Hastings’ life was saved.

How’s your heart?
According to the American Heart Association, it’s essential that you measure your risk of heart disease and make a plan to prevent it in the future.
Click here to take our online heart assessment now.

By Susan Skog

Dr. David Columbus: ”Our new ability to narrow down precisely where the pain needs to be controlled is just mind-blowing.”.

Dr. David Columbus: ”Our new ability to narrow down precisely where the pain needs to be controlled is just mind-blowing.”.

Jessica Thomas loved teaching first graders, but chronic pain crushed her career and chance for a normal life until she underwent a revolutionary procedure at University of Colorado Health (UCHealth) Pain Management.

Thomas, 31, started having migraines when she was 16. Her headaches spiked after a 2005 car accident. By 2010, she lived an unending neurological nightmare that ended her classroom days.

“In 2010, I started to have more severe migraines and cluster headaches,” she recalled. “Sometimes, I had occipital neuralgia, which caused the back of my head to be so sensitive it even hurt to lie on a pillow. It was totally miserable.

“I also developed trigeminal neuralgia, which felt like electrical shocks going through the side of my head to the front of my face. I had nausea, extreme sensitivity to light and dizziness.”

Docs gave up

Other doctors gave up looking for a permanent solution and were prescribing powerful pain medication, Thomas said. It wasn’t until she met Dr. David Columbus at UCHealth’s Pain Management that she began to imagine her chronic misery might end.

“Dr. Columbus stepped out of the box and looked for ways that could help without just throwing medicines at me,” she said. “He is one of the first doctors who really tried to help me and my husband, who has had to struggle with watching and not being able to help me.”

The patient, Jessica Thomas, holds up a photograph on her cell that shows X-rays of her neck with the electrodes next to her spinal column.

The patient, Jessica Thomas, holds up a photograph on her cell that shows X-rays of her neck with the electrodes next to her spinal column.

Using a frontline technology gaining popularity around the country, Dr. Columbus implanted a half-dollar-sized, lightweight spinal cord stimulator in Thomas’ upper buttocks.

The stimulator delivers small electrical pulses to thin leads—coated wires containing electrodes—placed in her spinal cord in precise areas along Thomas’ vertebrae. The pulses block pain by interfering with the nerve impulses that make Thomas experience pain.

Blocking pain

Using gentle sedation and with Thomas awake and responding, Dr. Columbus was able to determine precisely where to place several leads in her upper cervical spine, which turned out to best block her body from experiencing pain.

“With this new technology, we are able to place up to 32 different leads along the spinal cord to provide as much pain management coverage as possible,” said Dr. Columbus.

For people with chronic, intractable pain, this once-futuristic treatment is life-changing, he added. “We’ve seen this give back people their lives, relationships and work.”

So far, only 4,000 procedures using the new Boston Scientific technology have been done in the United States, Dr. Columbus said. “We believe we are the only ones in Colorado using this particularly advanced spinal cord stimulator technology.”


In Thomas’ follow-up visits, Dr. Columbus programmed the device to further fine-tune the type and strength of electric stimulation and cover areas of pain where she needed them. Thomas said she noticed improvements in her pain relief as soon as the device was turned on.

“The longer it has been in, the more coverage I am receiving,” she said. “Now it gives me more hope that things really can get better. In the worst of it all, it was really hard to keep hope when going through that much pain.”

Thomas is regaining her life one step at a time. “I started to have less sensitivity to the sun,” she said. “Now, I am able to participate in life more, meaning I can go to the store or go shopping with family members. I can take my dogs on walks. I am still adjusting to having a life again after spending so many years in such horrible pain and not being able to do anything for so long.”

Thomas also said her depression is much better, and her anxiety level has also dropped. “Both changes have been quite a blessing.”

Dr. Columbus said he is thrilled to see Thomas regain her life. “Jessica’s been able to get off most pain medication,” he said. “Her goal now is to return to teaching again.

“I’ve been a pain specialist for 22 years, and this is unbelievable and extremely rewarding,” he noted. “While spinal cord stimulation has been used for more than 30 years in this country, our new ability to narrow down precisely where the pain needs to be controlled is just mind-blowing.”

For more information about Dr. Columbus and pain management, visit pvhs.org or call 970.203.7000.

Understanding new cardiovascular treatment guidelinesscreening_results

By Randi Freeman

For years, patients have been told to watch their cholesterol and change their lifestyles when their numbers were too high. When target numbers weren’t reached, prescribed medications helped them reach their goal.

In late 2013, all that changed. New cholesterol treatment guidelines released by the American Heart Association (AHA) and American College of Cardiology (ACC) removed the focus on achieving target cholesterol numbers and instead aimed to reduce a person’s overall risk of heart disease and stroke – the leading causes of death in the world.

Studies have shown that treating with statin drugs to lower cholesterol may not be necessary in everyone unless they have other factors that raise their risk of heart attack and stroke. According to Dr. Roger Ashmore, University of Colorado Health cardiologist, the primary goal of the new guidelines is to define those patients who are at a higher risk for heart disease and identify people who would benefit from cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

There are three things people can do to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

Look beyond the numbers.

The new guidelines still indicate that high cholesterol is one factor of cardiovascular disease. There are, however, other risk factors to consider such as diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and family history. In fact, drug therapy is no longer recommended for the sole purpose of achieving cholesterol numbers.

Dr. Ashmore cautions that people should not abandon their efforts to lower their cholesterol. In fact, exercise and healthy eating habits, which improve total cholesterol numbers, are proven to be key in fighting heart disease and stroke. “The new guidelines stress the importance of lifestyle in managing cholesterol and preventing heart disease,” said Dr. Ashmore.

So what should we monitor instead of cholesterol numbers?

Know your risk.

The new guidelines recommend that people who have no history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes learn their 10-year risk by getting an assessment and talking to a doctor to understand their overall health. Then, if needed, the person should work with their physician and develop a treatment plan tailored to their needs.

People can get a risk assessment for heart disease and stroke through their primary care provider or cardiologist. This assessment looks at race, gender, age, total cholesterol, good HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, use of blood pressure medication and smoking status. Also, the AHA offers free online assessments on their website at heart.org.

Reduce your risk.

“The new guidelines are a significant change on how physicians treat with statin drugs,” said Dr. Ashmore. “We no longer concentrate on the level of bad cholesterol called LDL, but on the overall risk of the patient.”

According to the new guidelines, statin drug treatment is still recommended for people who are considered high risk.

“Patients with a history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes are at the highest risk of heart attack and stroke and should be treated with statin drugs regardless of their cholesterol numbers,” said Dr. Ashmore. “Statin drugs provide the greatest benefit in terms of preventing heart attacks and strokes and most people use these medications without difficulty or serious side effects.”

Gone are the days of chasing cholesterol targets. Instead, Dr. Ashmore indicates that the new strategy in heart disease prevention will focus on diabetes and blood pressure management, smoking cessation and lifestyle adjustments. And when needed, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

Learn your risk of heart disease now by taking an online heart assessment.

Insomnia. Pain. Fatigue. Depression.

These are challenges that people dealing with cancer often experience. At University of Colorado Health, oncology massage therapy is offered to patients to promote relaxation and relieve discomfort.

“Being in touch with your body is really important,” said Richard Johnson, a non-hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor.

In this short video, Richard  shares his experience with massage.

Massage for cancer is specialized to promote relief of the physical and emotional impacts of cancer and cancer treatment. UCHealth has a team of three specially-trained and certified massage therapists who provide this valued service.

Benefits to Cancer Massage

More and more, clinical research is showing the benefits for massage during cancer. Cancer massage helps with:

  • More restful sleep.
  • Pain relief.
  • Nausea control.
  • Decreased fatigue.
  • Help with depression.

Using a standardized Pressure Index and understanding each patient’s physical needs and treatment experience, UCHealth massage therapists modify touch so it is most comforting for the patient and won’t cause any harm. These specially-trained cancer massage therapists know how to adapt body positioning, modify touch for wounds or IV lines, and work around hospital equipment to safely give comfort and relief.

Learn more about our cancer massage program.

This blog was written by Dave Rizzotto, marketing strategist for University of Colorado Health.

by Sarah Morales, UCHealth

Group of friends playing football in parkThe Super Bowl should be about spending time with family, friends and cheering on your favorite team and not about eating and drinking yourself silly. If just thinking about the fat and calories in popular game-day foods makes your buttons pop-off, use some of these helpful hints to make your Super Bowl experience a healthier and guilt-free event:

1. Set out smaller portions and limit your food options
When large bowls or bags of food are left out, we tend to eat more. Try putting a few tablespoons of salsa or guacamole in a small bowl and encourage guests to share one. In addition, give pre-portioned amounts of chips to dip (about 30 chips for two people). Also, limit the amount and variety of high-calorie foods offered. A small variety of these food means fewer opportunities to eat more just because it’s there. Instead, offer a larger variety of healthy foods and steer guests toward loading their plates with lower-calorie options.


2. Don’t drink your calories
Since alcohol and soda are big game day drinks, place low calorie drinks like water, diet soda and tea in the cooler, and keep the higher calorie drinks out of reach in the kitchen or garage.

3. Add fiber to your snacks
If serving a veggie tray seems foreign to you, try other snacks with fiber to keep full. Whole grain crackers, vegetarian chili or roasted chickpeas are a few good options.

4. Make small swaps
Traditional game-day appetizers tend to be high in fat and calories, so a few simple swaps can be made to cut calories and fat without losing out on taste. Bake or grill wings instead of frying. Use plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in dips. Have a fruit bowl with yogurt dip instead of a candy bowl. Use baked chips or make your own pizza with lots of veggies and no meat. Just making a few changes can pay off big in the long run and make your game-day food healthier.

5. Keep the food separated If at all possible, keep your spread of appetizers in the kitchen or another room away from the big game. Studies show that when food is in front of us, we eat more of it. Keeping the food away will encourage guests to rely on hunger cues to eat rather than eat mindlessly.

6. Keep it safe

Alcohol consumption is usually the last thing on our minds when our favorite team is playing. Here are a few tips to keep your party healthy and safe:

  • Offer non-alcoholic drink options for your guests.
  • If your guests are drinking alcohol, offer healthy food options. Food in the stomach slows digestion which slows down the absorption of alcohol.
  • Encourage guests to have one drink at a time.
  • Model appropriate drinking behavior for your guests.
  • Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party ends and encourage your guests to stay awhile after the game ends to give them time to sober up.
  • If a guest is visibly intoxicated, cut them off and make sure they have a safe way home.

7. Halftime activity
Half-time during football games is 15 minutes long. That is plenty of time to get off the couch and get some physical activity done. Here is a quick workout you can do with your family and friends. You can take this activity outside, or stay inside if you don’t want to miss the halftime show.

  • Jumping jacks (30 seconds)
  • Push ups (30 seconds)
  • Plank (30 seconds)
  • Burpees (30 seconds)
  • Bicycle crunches (30 seconds)
  • Mountain climbers (30 seconds)

Repeat: 4 times
Total Time: 12 minutes

Looking for healthy football recipes? Go here.

What are your suggestions for hosting healthy parties? Visit us on Facebook and share your ideas.

Sarah Morales, MS, RD,  works a a well-being coordinator for University of Colorado Health.


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