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Atrium Health Navicent to Host Events Celebrating Heart Month

Doctor holding symbolic heart.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. February is American Heart Month, and doctors at Atrium Health Navicent want to help those with heart conditions live their best lives.

The CDC estimates that 697,000 people in the U.S. die of heart disease each year – approximately 1 in every 5 deaths.

Atrium Health Navicent invites the community to participate in the following events to learn more about heart health and assess individual risk for heart-related conditions:


  • Feb. 17, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Atrium Health Navicent Wellness Center, 3797 Northside Drive, Macon. Cost: $50, but free for veterans. Call 800-627-2393 to make an appointment.

  • Feb. 23, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Atrium Health Navicent Baldwin, 821 N. Cobb St., Milledgeville. Cost: $50, but free for veterans. Call 800-627-2393 to make an appointment.

CPR and First-Aid Training:

  • Feb. 19, 2 p.m., Atrium Health Navicent Wellness Center, 2797 Northside Drive, Macon. Registration is required. Please call 478-227-3955 for details and pricing. Instructor: LaTanya Clark, Hands to Heart Training Services, LLC.

Heart Healthy Cooking Class:

  • Feb. 24, 12 p.m., Atrium Health Navicent Wellness Center, 3797 Northside Drive, Macon. Cost: Free. Please RSVP by Feb. 17 by calling 478-633-7157. Space is limited.

World-class cardiac care is available close to home at Atrium Health Navicent Luce Heart Institute. In fact, Atrium Health Navicent was one of the first in the region to implement the use of the Watchman device for people with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib).

“This procedure drastically deduces chance of stroke from AFib,” said Dr. Brandon Elmore, a structural cardiologist and medical director for the Watchman procedure at Atrium Health Navicent. “Patients with AFib — which is an abnormal heart rhythm — are at risk for developing blood clots if not treated with blood thinners. There are some patients who can’t tolerate blood thinners. That’s where this procedure comes in, as an alternative to blood thinners for stroke prevention.”

In 90 percent of patients, clots develop in the left atrial appendage located in the left upper chamber of the heart.

“The Watchman is a device that plugs a small area in the left upper chamber and prevents the formation of stroke causing clots,” Elmore said.

The Watchman procedure is one of several ways patients can get specialized care at the Structural Heart and Valve Clinic at Atrium Health Navicent, one of only two such clinics south of Atlanta, and the only one in our region to offer Transaortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). This non-surgical procedure allows a crimped-down valve to be inserted through a tube into the heart to replace a failing aortic valve. Once in place, the valve opens and functions the same as a healthy valve.

“This is for patients with aortic stenosis, which is a stiffening of the aortic valve. Much less invasive than open heart surgery, this procedure takes 45 minutes and includes just a small incision. Patients reach a full recovery in five to seven days, as opposed open heart surgery. From a safety standpoint, it has an excelled safety profile with a low risk of complications,” Elmore said.

Another procedure with a quick recovery time offered at the Structural Heart and Valve Clinic is MitraClip. A healthy heart’s mitral valve prevents backflow of blood in the heart. Sometimes the valve becomes stiffened and narrow, or incompetent and leaky, which allows a percentage of blood to circulate in the opposite direction. Patients with mitral regurgitation may have fluid accumulation in their lungs, shortness of breath and swelling of the legs. MitraClip is a non-surgical procedure for patients who are not candidates for surgical mitral valve replacement due to individual risk factors. The device is placed using a minimally invasive approach and real-time imaging. Patients generally are discharged home within three days.

Because of these innovative procedures and the hospital system’s focus on high-quality programs with optimal patient recovery, Atrium Health Navicent is one of only four hospital systems in the nation — and the only one in Georgia — to receive the triple crown of heart accreditations by the American College of Cardiology. These designations include Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI Accreditation, Heart Failure Accreditation and Atrial Fibrillation with EPS Accreditation.

“This designation speaks volumes to the excellence of care here. It assures us that Atrium Health Navicent is a center of excellence for stenting and PCI, AFib and heart failure,” Elmore said. “Irrespective of your cardiac condition, you can rest assured that you will get the best care possible. The designation validates quality of care offered here, which we already know is very good.”

The state-of-the-art Luce Heart Institute, located at Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center, has a helipad and quick access to Interstate 75, making it easily accessible for patients and their family members.

The Institute has a long track record of excellent patient care.

“Since I arrived five years ago, we’ve implemented ground-breaking, innovative procedures and Atrium Health Navient always ensures we have latest equipment with highest level of safety,” Elmore said. “I do all of my complex procedures there. The infrastructure lends itself to safety and success. This is a hospital system that invests in ensuring physicians have access to everything they need to safely and efficiently lead to the best outcomes.”

For patients recovering from heart attacks or heart surgery, Atrium Health Navicent Heart & Vascular Care’s Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) program has a multidisciplinary team of surgeons, counselors, nurses, dieticians and therapists to take care of VAD patients. It’s one of only two such programs south of Atlanta.

“This for patients with severe heart failure, which some patients experience because of heart artery blockages or other diseases. In both cases, heart function drops over time and you end up with a weakness in the heart muscle,” Elmore said. “Despite helping patients through medication, education and other means, some still require extra help for the heart to beat stronger, such as a Ventricular Assist Device, or VAD. Basically, VAD is a fancy term for a pump that serves to help the blood move from the main chamber of the heart, up to the aorta, then out to the rest of the body.”

Heart disease affects both men and women, with no regard for race or ethnicity. Deaths related to heart disease are particularly high in Georgia and the Southeast, which is why taking care of your heart through healthy habits and regular examinations is key to prevention.

“Looking at heart disease, sometimes the symptoms are subtle. Patients expect some real dramatic turn of events to identify having heart disease, and sometimes that happens with something like a heart attack. But a lot of times, heart disease-related symptoms start mild and gradually progress. More subtle warning signs include a progressive shortness of breath just walking around the house, chest pressure, lightheadedness, severe heart palpitations and irregular beats,” said Dr. Elmore. “Sometimes, we as humans don’t want something to be wrong, so when we have symptoms we instinctively dismiss them as ‘just getting older.’ Sometimes that may be the case, but it’s better to err on side of caution. See your doctor or a cardiologist and don’t ignore symptoms.”

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