Join Atrium Health Navicent in Observing American Heart Month

February 15, 2022

The community is invited to join Atrium Health Navicent in observing American Heart Month, a time for everyone to learn how to be heart-healthy and to learn more about how individuals with heart conditions can live their best lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The CDC estimates that 659,000 people in the U.S. die of heart disease each year – approximately 1 in every 4 deaths. 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.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new population of heart patients who, after battling the disease, are now suffering from heart failure. Heart failure is a term used to describe a heart that cannot keep up with its workload. The body depends on the heart’s pumping action to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the body’s cells. With heart failure, the weakened heart can’t supply the cells with enough blood, which results in fatigue and shortness of breath during everyday activities. Congestive heart failure is a type of heart failure that requires immediate medical attention.

“In my personal experience, I have seen COVID-19 ravage the heart, either through its direct effect on the heart itself, or indirectly from the lung damage that can cause the heart to do poorly,” said Dr. Erskine James, director of the Advanced Heart Failure Center and medical director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at Atrium Health Navicent.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), studies suggest many COVID-19 survivors experience some type of heart damage, even if they didn’t have underlying heart disease before contracting COVID-19. Nearly 25 percent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 have been diagnosed with cardiovascular complications, which have been shown to contribute to about 40 percent of all COVID-19-related deaths.

The AHA says anyone can develop heart failure, and more than 6 million Americans are living with heart failure. More than 900,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. While heart failure can’t be cured, it can be treated.

Atrium Health Navicent Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation — located on the first floor of the Luce Heart Tower at Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center — offers education, counseling and exercise to help patients who have recently experienced a cardiac event, including heart failure patients, to reach their optimal level of well-being and self-sufficiency.

Benefits of cardiac rehab include combatting the progression of heart disease; reducing risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes; improving cardiac efficiency, as well as physical and psychological well-being; educating patients about heart disease management; and enhancing quality of life.

Cardiopulmonary rehabilitation services are also available at Atrium Health Baldwin.

Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a heart condition, Heart Month is a great time to begin practicing heart-healthy living. Start by implementing these tips:

• Eat healthy: Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, fish, nuts, legumes and seeds. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat.

• Be physically active: Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, like brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity every week, like jogging.

• Learn the warning signs: Heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men. Knowing when you’re having a heart attack or stroke means you’re more likely to get immediate help. Quick treatment can save your life. • Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke: It’s never too late to quit smoking. Even exposure to secondhand smoke poses a serious health hazard.

• Have regular wellness exams: Establishing a relationship with a physician means you can start heart-health screenings now.

“Prevention is the best treatment for heart disease. It is far easier to prevent heart attacks than to treat the aftereffects,” James said. “The problem with heart disease is that frequently the first sign is a fatal sign. Live healthy and love your heart.”

Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center has been recognized by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) for its demonstrated expertise and commitment in treating patients with heart conditions. The hospital was the first in the state to receive ACC accreditation for three heart care programs: Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI Accreditation, Heart Failure Accreditation and Atrial Fibrillation with EPS Accreditation.

To find out more about our world class heart care, or for help finding a doctor, visit

About Atrium Health Navicent Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit