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STEMI plan aims to decrease heart disease in Mississippi


Mississippi is looking to improve the health of its residents, starting with the disease that claims more lives than cancer, traffic injuries, suicides and AIDS combined.

Recently, the state has been attempting to reduce the increasing number of heart-disease related deaths and the Mississippi Healthcare Alliance (MHCA) and the Mississippi State Department of Health are spearheading that goal. Together, the groups have implemented a plan of action called the ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, or STEMI.

The plan engages in teaching Mississippians, both patients and trained personnel, with an educational design used in state hospitals to ensure equal care is provided to patients with heart disease.

“(The STEMI plan of care) puts all the players together to work to coordinate hand-offs and recognition of the patient so that it’s fluid and that it’s standard,” said Heather Sistrunk, cardiovascular services director for Baptist Memorial Hospital and MHCA board secretary.

“You’re going to get a standardized treatment plan,” she said. “Everybody is going to treat you the same. Everybody is on the same page.”

Contrary to popular belief, three out of four Mississippians live with at least one cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor, which may include: obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stress and anger, smoking, high cholesterol, physical inactivity and genetics.

A study conducted by the MSDH on chronic disease in Lafayette County showed CVD as the third-highest cause of chronic diseases in 2007 at 9 percent. Diabetes was the second-highest and obesity was the largest cause of chronic diseases, at 11 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

The changes of heart disease can be lessened simply by eating healthy and exercising.

Sistrunk said emergency medical service (EMS) teams, especially those associated with 911, are valuable in assessing and notifying hospitals of patients’ situations before they arrive.    

“The faster you can get to a place where they can intervene, (the better),” said University of Mississippi nursing major Caitlin Clark. “You want to get to where you can get the treatment the quickest.”

Sistrunk said MHCA plans to publicly campaign the importance of dialing 911.

A patient’s self-diagnosis is hard to rely on because symptoms vary between gender and age groups, which is why utilization of 911 is so important.

Typically, heart attack victims worry about the cost of ambulance care or of having a false attack.

“They may be having false chest pain, it may be something related to their stomach or something else, but that is OK,” Sistrunk said. “We’d rather (they be) on the safe side than not. It’s much more important for a person to be a viable part of the family than to ignore it and not be.”