American Heart Association Profile: Andrea Engfer

Almost 30 percent of Americans under 45 don’t know the five most common signs of stroke according to recent research, and alarmingly this same age group is seeing a rise in strokes. While medical science continues to improve outcomes for stroke survivors, early identification followed by immediate medical attention can make a significant impact on the severity and complications of a stroke.

Andrea Engfer was lucky. Her husband knew something was wrong and acted fast. Days after giving birth to their first child, he rushed Andrea to urgent care when she complained of an extreme headache. “My headache turned into a migraine so bad that I started crying. On the way [to urgent care] I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Then I let out a big scream because it felt like my head was going to explode. After that I don’t remember anything,” recounted Andrea.

For the next 12 days, Andrea was in a medically induced coma with her young family desperately hoping she’d be okay. She had suffered a significant brain hemorrhage and the doctors thought she might never see again because the type of stroke she suffered severely impacted eyesight. After 43 days in the hospital and intensive physical therapy, Andrea relearned to walk, talk, read and write, although she still has a vision deficit and deals with memory loss and cognitive issues.

Now as an Ambassador of the American Heart Association, Andrea is dedicated to raising awareness of strokes and prenatal health. While many people under 45 don’t consider themselves potentially at risk for stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes, all can be contributing factors. Andrea urges people to “Know your numbers! Keeping track of your blood pressure is so important. Many of us are not aware of our blood pressure or where it needs to be. Not only that, but many of us don’t know what the numbers mean. I looked up that information and also bought a blood pressure machine after my stroke and I check it daily. If my blood pressure spikes I let my doctor know and we figure out a plan.”

By learning what a stroke looks like, you could help someone get the help they need during critical minutes when symptoms come on quickly. The early signs of stroke include:

• severe migraines
• numbness in the face/arm/hand
• confusion/trouble speaking
• difficulty walking/dizziness/loss of balance
• trouble seeing in one or both eyes

For Additional Information
American Heart Association



Staying Healthy Post-Lockdown

As more people in the United States are vaccinated against COVID-19, and some areas experience a slowdown in virus infections, the nation is slowly starting to reopen. According to health care professionals, post-lockdown life should start with taking stock of your own health.

“It’s a great time to do a (health) reboot,” said Dr. Kathryn M. Rexrode, chief of the division of women’s health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “We did the best to cope and get through this extraordinary year, and now we can think about how we start to heal and re-engage in our own health.”

Here’s how.

Know your numbers

Keep track of your blood pressure, cholesterol and A1C, which is a measure of average blood sugar over the prior three months.

While blood pressure and weight can be tracked at home, a doctor’s visit may be the easiest way to get the most up-to-date measurements of total cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar.

“Because we’ve been less active in many cases and because our eating patterns have been less healthy, those things definitely could have gotten out of whack,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a cardiologist, epidemiologist and chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “Unless you get with your doctor and measure them carefully, you won’t know your numbers, and you won’t know what you need to address.”

Schedule cancer screenings

Rexrode, a primary care doctor, urged people to schedule any necessary or overdue mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies and other cancer screening tests, which many postponed during the pandemic.

“We may have missed opportunities to pick up cancer at an earlier stage when treatment is usually easier and less invasive than if we detect it at a later stage,” she said. Most states allow residents to schedule their own screenings. “It’s important to review that list and see what you’re overdue for.”

Indeed, in March 2020 alone, more than 800 lung cancer screening appointments at the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center were postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. When testing resumed later that year, 29% of people had suspicious nodules versus 8% before the pandemic.

Even more people should now be screened for lung cancer after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently updated its recommendations for low-dose CT scans for lung cancer. The task force urges screenings in people ages 50-80 who have a 20 pack-year or more smoking history and currently smoke or have quit in the past 15 years.

A pack-year is an average of one pack of cigarettes a day per year. So, one pack per day for 20 years or two packs a day for a decade would each equal 20 pack-years.

See the dentist

An American Dental Association survey found three-quarters of respondents postponed dental checkups during the spring of 2020, and more than 12% avoided the dentist even though something was bothering them.

That may have far-reaching effects that go beyond your pearly whites.

“Chronic inflammation of the gums can introduce whole-body inflammation, and there are some links to an increase in cardiovascular disease,” Rexrode said. “Taking care of your teeth is an investment for your future self.”

Address mental health

Mental health also has taken a hit during the pandemic, with self-reported depression and anxiety way up. “The pandemic and the stresses and strains of isolation, the loss of jobs and, in some cases, homes have magnified the problems of mental health,” said Lloyd-Jones, president-elect of the American Heart Association.

He advised people struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental health problems to reconnect with their therapist or to talk with their primary care doctor, a social worker or a social service organization in their community.

“There are many ways to start to get connected, but it’s important to acknowledge you’re having a problem and get involved in the care pathway,” he said. “The earlier you identify a problem and get connected, the sooner we can get help for you.”

Get moving

A recent study in JAMA Network Open of measurements from internet-connected smart scales suggests shelter-in-place orders may have impacted waistlines, with adults gaining more than half a pound every 10 days. Obesity increases the risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and many cancers.

That’s why it’s important to get moving. Vaccinated people can safely return to the gym, Lloyd-Jones said, although he advised people to stick with facilities that enforce social distancing and wearing masks.

Or, with the weather getting warmer, he pointed out exercise is as easy as taking a walk around the block.

In addition, both Rexrode and Lloyd-Jones advise their patients to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources while minimizing processed items, fast food and sugary drinks.

“We need to give ourselves a pass for the last year and get back on track,” Lloyd-Jones said. “When you take control of things by exercising or eating healthier, you’ll start to feel better remarkably quickly.”



Heart Disease Linked to Food Insecurity

People with atherosclerosis, particularly those who earn a low income and have other socioeconomic disadvantages, are more likely to experience food insecurity than those without the condition, according to new research.

In 2018, nearly 11% – 14.3 million – U.S. households were food insecure, a term the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as “limited or uncertain access to adequate food due to lack of money” at least some time during the year.

The new findings were presented last month at the American Heart Association’s virtual Scientific Sessions. They are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Those who listed themselves as “poor/low income” were nearly five times more likely to experience food insecurity. Among people with five or more “high-risk characteristics,” 44.1% reported food insecurity and had 23 times higher odds of being food insecure compared to those with one or no characteristics.

Leaving atherosclerosis unchecked could be dangerous. The fatty plaque may partially or totally block blood flow through large or medium-sized arteries in the heart and brain, leading to a heart attack or stroke. Treatments for the condition can include medication to prevent clot formation and to control risk factors, surgery, or lifestyle changes such as heart-healthy eating, weight management, exercise and quitting smoking.

Experts say it’s essential for people to be able to afford medications and still be able to eat a balanced diet. Federal nutrition programs, sometimes called “food stamps,” are critical for people with food insecurity, the study said. A previous study commissioned by the USDA found the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reduced the likelihood of being food insecure by about 30%.

Finding a long-term solution is trickier, but research shows high-quality education is the key. “It’s remarkable to look at the disparity in education among people who end up being food insecure and those who don’t,” he said.

“The solutions need to start early in life with education intervention, from age two onwards. It sounds like an obvious thing to say, but you have to make sure people get a better education so they have better jobs, a higher income and better health.”

For Additional Information
American Heart Association


Workplace Yoga: A Time to Destress

In today’s workplace, whether that be at home or an in-person environment, things can easily get stressful and overwhelming. This is why employers have been getting more creative with finding ways to keep employees engaged and stress free!

Among many employee benefits, workplace yoga, both at the office and online at the home office, is gaining huge popularity. It is primarily offered at larger corporations such as Apple and Google, but smaller organizations are quickly adopting it as well. Workplace yoga has been shown to offer a cost effective solution with a big impact for employees and employers. 

Why are so many companies turning to workplace yoga to engage employees?

In addition to improving overall fitness and flexibility, yoga has been known to be one of the most effective exercises in reducing chronic stress. Studies by the American Heart Association and others have found that those who do yoga regularly are calmer than those who don’t. Yoga reduces levels of cortisol— our stress hormone— and it can help to improve productivity, efficiency, concentration, and creativity.

Most yoga practices not only focus on the body, but also the breath. Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. When you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. According to the National Institute of Health, breath work helps lower blood pressure through relaxing the body, improves the ability to concentrate, and helps create an overall feeling of wellbeing by triggering the release of endorphins. 

For the employers, offering activities such as workplace yoga to employees can increase job satisfaction, mindfulness, and overall wellbeing of employees. It can be a big help in reducing employee turnover, healthcare costs, all while improving employee engagement. Yoga at work is a win-win for companies, bosses and their employees and an essential addition to any company’s wellness program!

For more information, visit the American Heart Association’s website.

Do You Have High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is called the “silent killer” because there are often no obvious symptoms. It accounts for more heart disease and stroke deaths than almost all other preventable causes – coming in second only to smoking. And the incidence of hypertension is now even higher, according to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. Their new guidelines defining blood pressure levels indicate that nearly half of all adults in the U.S. are now considered to have high blood pressure.

Paula Battle, of Tacoma, learned how quickly life can be turned upside-down when high blood pressure goes unmanaged. In 2009 she started her day feeling ill, but as many people do, carried on and went to work. During a meeting, she felt a sudden sharp pain in her head. Her vision started to blur. She knew something was very wrong. Colleagues immediately escorted her to the on-site employee health clinic. By that point, her blood pressure was at a life-threatening level and paramedics were called.

“The ambulance ride to the hospital completely changed my life,” Battle said. “I promised myself that if I was able to put my feet on the ground again that I would be different. I needed to change my life for myself, but also for my husband and children.”

Battle adopted simple advice from her physician: walk 30 minutes a day and eat more fruits and vegetables. She loved the way walking made her feel, so her commitment eventually increased to five to six miles per day. “Walking and eating better has given me an entirely new outlook. My blood pressure is in a healthy range, I’m more energized and am able to do the things I love with my family.”

The new guideline recommends that people with readings at or higher than 130 as the top number or 80 as the bottom number should consult with their physician about ways to reduce their blood pressure. Commonly, lifestyle modifications such as adopting a heart-healthy diet, losing weight, quitting cigarettes, cutting back on alcohol and increasing physical activity can make a significant impact. Medication may also be prescribed.


For more information about the American Heart Association or heart disease:

Puget Sound Women’s Show


Puget Sound Women’s Show Goes Red

February 9th, 2019

Tacoma Mall’s Macy’s Court

Tacoma Mall and ShowCase Magazine and the American Heart Association co-host the Puget Sound Women’s Show. This heart felt event focuses on having fun and loving yourself!

Imagine the bliss evoked while having a free chair massage and hand aroma therapy…ohhhh la la! Discovering cutting edge health knowledge, great wellness and beauty advice and new fashion ideas. The American Heart Association will share a story of heart felt challenge and change.

The first two hundred and fifty ladies to register receive a FREE gift bag and are entered to win an overnight stay and dinner at the award-winning Alderbrook Resort and Spa. The resort was selected as the best resort by Evening Magazine in 2009 and was awarded four crowns by Northstar Media Travel.

Presented by: