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Heart Health

The Treadmill Stress Test is just one way to evaluate a patient's heart condition.February, the “month of love,” is also “Heart Health Month,” medically speaking. Since 25.4% of all deaths in the USA today are caused by heart disease (our nation’s number one killer), it’s worth a closer look. Information for this article was gathered from the American Heart  Association,, and includes expertise from WHC’s visiting Cardiologist Dr. Stan Diede and Paramedic Felicia Huber Sampson.

Dr. Diede, WHC’s visiting cardiologist, comes to Wishek once a month to help our communities’ hearts stay healthy. Although he says Midwesterners often have fewer blood vessel problems than they do in other parts of the country, he still sees the most common forms of heart disease every day: heart attacks, high blood pressure, heart failure, arrhythmia, and high cholesterol. Although some people are more prone to heart disease based on daily health decisions, Dr. Diede encourages the following ways to be proactive about reducing your risk of heart disease: 
1. Give up/Don’t start smoking. Smokers have a 70 percent higher death rate from coronary artery disease than nonsmokers. The act of smoking causes a buildup of fatty substances in the arteries, which can lead to coronary
heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Visit the “Quit Smoking” page for more resources.
2. Monitor your diet. What we eat affects the ease at which our blood pumps through our body. Eating saturated fats, salty foods, and high sugar content can build up blockage in our arteries and veins, hindering the flow of blood to and from the heart. Visit the “Nutrition Center” at or call (701) 452-2326 to schedule a consultation with the WHC’s dietitian Kathy Imdieke to start your dieting plan to ensure healthy blood flow.
3. Regular physical exercise. We have the ability to make our heart stronger or weaker. It doesn’t have to be running or lifting weights, but engaging in physical activity for 30 minutes a day can strengthen your heart and blood flow. The American Heart Association encourages walking for exercise and includes walking plans at The WHC staff encourages membership of their own or other workout facilities in the community.
  Although the assumption is that heart disease runs in the family through genetics, Dr. Diede argues that heart disease is due more from nurture versus nature. “It’s more familial habits and the environment that you are raised in than if someone in your family had an issue with heart disease,” says Dr. Diede.  In light of this, if there are family heart problems, he recommends being more careful with controlling the risk factors so as not to fall in the same line. Healthy lifestyles as adults start with the education and examples children see in the home. Teaching children about how to implement activity and healthy choices early can reduce the risk of heart problems in their future. 
  The WHC offers a cardiac rehabilitation program that uses exercise to recondition as well as monitor the heart after a heart episode. Requirements to being admitted into the  cardiac rehab program are for patients who have had a heart attack, open-heart surgery, or a stent placement and have an official order from a cardiologist, NP, PA, or a doctor. 
   Patients with heart problems may have minimal symptoms and steady heart activity while at rest; however, symptoms and signs of heart conditions may come to the surface under the stress of exercise. The WHC performs a “stress test” using a treadmill and lexiscan for patients that show signs of heart problems including chest pain, shortness of breath, and a strong family history of heart disease. 
  The treadmill stress test monitors a patient’s heart rate through electrodes placed on the patient’s body while they run or walk on the treadmill. The adenosine stress test is used on patients who are physically unable to exercise or who didn’t reach their target heart rate during the treadmill stress test. Through an IV, the patient is given a medication called adenosine that opens up the arteries to allow for an easier blood flow.

Heart attacks are often the scariest form of heart disease because of their suddenness and 
fatal effects. Below are the most common signs of a heart attack:
• Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
• Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, shoulders, back (for mainly women), neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
• All of these symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
• Note that diabetics often do not show these same symptoms and should have their heart checked regularly by their medical provider.



Shaken by a Heart Attack

Don Hochhalter and his wife Lora pictured here during the WHC 1950's-themed fall fundraiser
  At age 55, Don Hochhalter would never have expected to hear the phrase “you are having a heart attack.” As store manager of Wishek’s Titan Machinery, Don knew he was carrying a lot of responsibility, and sometimes stress, in his job, but considered himself rather healthy. It was a heart attack that changed Don’s perspective of his life and local medical care.
  It was March 21st of 2013, and the pain in Don’s chest and shoulders that he had been experiencing for several days forced Don to pull over in Streeter on his way back to Wishek from a business trip. Don closed his eyes and reclined his seat, trying to bear the pain’s increased intensity. “I didn’t know how long I was there,” says Don. After a while, the pain let up. Don recalls, “The German in me said, ‘I don’t go to the doctor unless I’m dead.” Naturally, it took a lot for his wife, Lora, to convince him to get help.
After arriving at the Wishek ER, the staff immediately called eEmergency, a two-way video system that connects the Wishek Emergency Room to Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D. “The whole time I was thinking ‘this is just heart burn,’” said Don. The Avera cardiologist talked with Polly Benson, PA-C/NP about what Don was experiencing and advised her to run a test. It was confirmed that Don had, or was going to have, a heart attack. “Having these technologies in this small town is incredible,” Don commented. The emergency crew put Don in an ambulance and rushed him to St. Alexius in Bismarck. “I can’t say enough about the staff. They were pros through this whole process and really kept me calm. Everything was handled professionally and in a caring manner.” said Don.
At St. Alexius, they found the blockage in Don's heart and inserted a stent to open up his artery. “I could feel the second that they put in the stent, the pain was gone.” Only three days later, he was back at work. “(The WHC staff) have a personal touch and passion for customer care. For the PA to call both my wife and I to see how we were’s quite unique. You can tell they whole-heartedly cared. You are not just the patient in room #6."
Don is currently on some medication for his heart as well as trying to eat healthier, walk for exercise, and delegate more at work. He plans on going back to the clinic for a yearly physical. “Every time something hurts, my mind thinks back to what I experienced on the road in Streeter. It was a scary deal to think that it could happen again.” After going through this experience, his biggest advice is for people to immediately get to the clinic or hospital if they feel pain anywhere in the chest or shoulders. “Don’t be so stubborn, especially when it comes to your heart. It’s a good idea to get to the clinic before you get to that point (of a heart attack). For me, it could have been all over on the side of the road," says Don.
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