The Cutting Edge: Attacking Heart Disease. YOUNG with Heart Disease. Drew and Megan

Drew Logan - Cardiac Arrest DefibrillatorOne in three Americans will die of heart disease, and some deaths strike unsuspecting, otherwise healthy young adults, who thought they would be around for the next 30, 40, 50 years. This is one issue examined by the medical special Cutting Edge: Attacking Heart Disease produced by Gannett Broadcasting airing across the country. Hosted by Julie Nelson, this special is an in depth report exploring prevention, revolutionary discoveries and advancements in the treatment of heart disease. In this segment, we learn that not all heart disease is caused by a unhealthy lifestyle. That young, relatively healthy people who, because they would be considered “low risk,” may have underlying heart disease that go undetected, risking their lives. We meet two such young people and how they are maintaining a good quality of live with new detection approaches and innovative treatments.


Julie Nelson explains… that a heart attack is caused by a blockage to the heart’s blood flow.

A sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical problem that causes the heart to Stop! Stop pumping blood to the body. Every year at least 300,000 Americans fall victim to sudden cardiac arrest. The chance of dying from sudden cardiac arrest is 95% within the first 10 minutes.

Drew …”On October 2004 I had three sudden cardiac arrests… It was a typical evening. I was sitting at the computer looking up a trip I was going to go on for Christmas and I lost consciousness… The doctors implanted me with a defibrillator, which is just under the skin on the left side of the chest. It has a lead that runs into my heart. The idea being that if I were to ever have another one, this little thing here  (defibrillator) will actually shock me, very much like the paddles that you would see …that would shock you to get the heart restarted. This would absolutely save my life if I have another sudden cardiac arrest.”

But two years after his sudden cardiac arrest, the readout from his defibrillator started to Service Dog for Cardiac Arrestshow some dangerous changes.  His doctors suggested he get a service dog.

Drew…. “his main function is to alert me.. even if my blood pressure goes up he notices or heart rhythms or body rhythms… right now I have this leash around my wrists that’s connected to him. And if he senses that something’s going on, he will grab the leash with his teeth. And he will yank to signal to me that ‘something’s up’ and to get someplace safe.”

Genetic Research for Detection and Prevention

Julie points out that since only 5% of people who suffer cardiac arrests survive, the ability to predict cardiac arrest or at least identify those at high risk has wide ranging benefits. Critical research is being done by the doctors at Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles on a new way to advance the prevention and treatment of the disease.

Sumeet S. Chugh, MD, Associate Director at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, California, explains the importance of the research. “With a heart attack patient will have symptoms such as pain in the chest or pain in the arm. With sudden cardiac arrest the heart essentially stops.”

Dr. Chugh says they are interested in how the genomic makeup or genetic profile of the individual can affect the risk of having a cardiac arrest.  They are at the stage where they have identified three areas on the human genome.  One of them is protective against cardiac arrest.  And the other two increase the risk of cardiac arrest.  They now have to find those people,  so they can do a better job of predicting risks before cardiac arrest happens, because…” once cardiac arrest happens, in a lot of ways it’s too late.”


Cutting Edge health correspondent Monica Roberts reports that about a third of people that have heart attacks do not have high cholesterol. But they may have something called a biomarker in their blood.  And knowing about it could save their life.

Megan Johns is the picture of health. She’s active and in shape and is a heart attack survivor!

Megan…”it felt like a stack of books was on my chest resting.  And then my left arm was tingling.”… The day before her college graduation, Megan went to the emergency room… “they said ‘long story short, you’re not going to your graduation tomorrow.  Your blood work came back.  You had a heart attack.'”  She wondered if she was going to die at any minute.

How can an athletic 21-year-old female have a heart attack?   She had to go to several doctors before finally getting a definitive answer to her problem.

Leslie Cho, M.D., Director, Women’s Cardiovascular Center, Cleveland Clinic said  “what we did find was a blood test called lipoprotein A which is a specialized cholesterol. People who have very high levels of the lipoprotein A have heart disease very early on.  They have heart attack and strokes at a very young age”.

There is no proven medication to correct it but cholesterol-lowering drugs and low dose aspirin may help along with exercise and diet.

Megan learned LPA is a genetic disorder.  Dr. Cho tested her family and Megan now knows the LPA biomarker came from her mom.

How Cutting Edge Biomarker Screening can save lives.

Dr. Cho advises that the LPA blood test is a very easy blood tests and it is available everywhere.  People should get tested and especially people who have strong family history and who have had heart disease at a young age. This something you can pass on to your children.

While screening for biomarkers like lipoprotein A (LPA) is standard practice at the Cleveland Clinic, the nation’s number one heart center, it is not typical nationwide.  There are more than half a dozen different types of biomarkers in the blood that may lead to heart disease.

Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., Director, Preventative Cardiology, Cleveland Clinic  and his team studied them for years and discovered one called Myeloperoxidase (MPO).  He says “an elevated level of this predicts future risk of heart attack or stroke or death.  Biomarkers are cutting edge because they helped to identify people who are at risk who otherwise would not be identified by the traditional blood tests that are typically used for predicting cardiac risk.”



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