New Clinic Helps Patients Manage Risks of High Cholesterol

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Cholesterol. It is a word we often hear today when talking about leading a healthy lifestyle. For many people, the word evokes concern as they recall the warnings from their physicians that they need to watch what they eat since their cholesterol levels are a bit elevated.

At William Osler Health Centre the Medical Risk Management Clinic staff help people understand what cholesterol is and how they can control it to prevent diseases caused by elevated or high levels of cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance made naturally in the body. Cholesterol helps form or repair cell membranes, some hormones, and other tissues.

Too much cholesterol in your blood can cause hardening of the arteries and you run the risk of heart attacks or stroke. There are two different types of Cholesterol. The “bad” cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is essential for cell repair and growth. But too much LDL in the blood is associated with the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and Cardiovascular disease. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or the “good” cholesterol helps remove excess LDL from blood vessels. Research suggests that high levels of HDL may protect the heart against atherosclerosis.

The Medical Risk Management Clinic at William Osler Health Centre is yet another example of how hospitals and physicians are creating a continuum of care within the health care system.

“We offer a service that the family physician is unable to provide because they don’t have the resources necessary,” explains Corry Bachmeier, RN, BScN, Cardiac Clinic Nurse Co-ordinator who, along with her multi-disciplinary team, runs the clinic. “We have the multi-disciplinary team approach to give our patients the most comprehensive care.”

The continuum of care begins with awareness. It includes prevention, treatment and ends with maintenance. These are the essentials that make the program work.

Gord Watson wishes that he had had the opportunity to visit such a clinic before he had his heart attack last August. But now the 72 year old is on the right path to recovery thanks to the efforts of Bachmeier and her team. “I suffered a pretty severe heart attack on August 3, 2001 and spent the better part of a week in the Coronary Care Unit in Sudbury. My heart is damaged with blockages on the left side and one valve closed. I’m told that if I suffer any more damage I will be faced with a heart transplant. I have a very good incentive to get better and to control my high cholesterol.”

He entered the Medical Risk Management Clinic at Brampton in January 2002 and has shown great improvement in controlling his bad cholesterol. He is among 40 other patients who have benefited from the program that relies on a lot of education about nutrition, risk factors, medication and their side effects exercise and lifestyle change.

“We help patients to look at their individual situation,” says Bachmeier. “For example, in cases where people have not had a heart attack but may be at risk of having one due to high or elevated cholesterol we look at the risk factors such as diabetes, smoking, weight, blood pressure, family history. We then tailor a program for people to follow to help them lower their bad cholesterol, increase their good cholesterol and hopefully prevent an episode from occurring or in the case of people like Mr. Watson, from re-occurring.”

But the program is not just about hearts. “We offer a multidisciplinary approach to the clinic. We have specialized nurses, clinical dietitians, pharmacists, endocrinologists and cardiologists. Our patient population ranges from the young otherwise healthy adult patient with familial hyperlipidemia (family history of high cholesterol) to the diabetic, elderly, and patients with existing cardiovascular disease. Patients receive one-on-one counselling regarding dietary changes, life style changes, and medication therapy and those who have had a heart attack will have access to our Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. Patients with hypertension are followed more frequently as we adjust their medications. It really is a team-approach as well as providing a continuum of care.”

With the opening of a Medical Risk Management Clinic in Etobicoke in May, more people now have access to this important service. This is another example of the tremendous benefits William Osler Health Centre provides to the community with access to services close to home.

Just ask Gordon Watson. “I think the education I received at the clinic has been the most important of my life. They really helped me make a change in my lifestyle and I really can’t thank them enough for that. I feel I have a second chance.”