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Boston University Chamber Orchestra concert, Friday, January 31, 8 p.m., CFA Concert Hall
Week of 24 January 2003· Vol. VI, No. 18

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University to offer free cardiac health program to employees

By David J. Craig

It is well known that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States -- responsible for 40 percent of all deaths in 2000, and claiming the lives of about 150,000 Americans under the age of 65 every year.

But many people might not realize how effectively cardiovascular problems can be warded off with simple lifestyle changes. Studies have shown, for instance, that healthy adults can reduce their risk of suffering a heart attack by 40 percent simply by adhering to a healthful diet, and that men with heart problems can reduce by 42 percent their risk of a fatal heart attack by lowering their cholesterol.

Boston University will launch a free program next month to help all employees improve their cardiovascular health. The BU Cardiac Health Program will include confidential health screenings, professional interpretation of results, and suggestions for lifestyle changes. In addition, medical referrals and follow-up health screenings will be offered to participants found to be at risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and other illnesses related to cardiovascular problems.

“The main objective of this program is to help reduce the negative impact of undiagnosed and untreated cardiovascular disease in Boston University employees, and to improve their quality of life,” says Cheryl Barbanel, a MED associate professor, chief of occupational and environmental medicine at Boston Medical Center (BMC), and director of BU’s Occupational Health Center, which is coordinating the program. “It is far better to take charge of your health now than to wait for the big wake-up call -- a cardiovascular event.”

Seminars introducing BU employees to the program will be held on Monday, February 10, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Keefer Auditorium at the Medical Campus, and from 1 to 2 p.m. in the second-floor Conference Auditorium of the George Sherman Union at the Charles River Campus. An overview of the program will be provided by Barbanel, and BU cardiovascular experts then will give presentations about high cholesterol, hypertension, and heart disease. George Philippides, a MED assistant professor and director of BMC’s Coronary Care Unit, will speak at the Medical Campus seminar, and Peter Wilson, a MED professor and director of laboratories for the Framingham Heart Study, will speak at the Charles River Campus seminar. The Framingham Heart Study is a landmark epidemiological study funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute since 1948 and managed by BU since 1971.

Subsequent screenings for total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 13, in the Heibert Lounge, on the 14th floor of the School of Medicine’s Building L, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, February 25, in the Student Center Lounge in the basement of the George Sherman Union. The screenings will be performed by Health Watch, a Medford-based biometrics company. Fasting prior to the screenings is not necessary, and participants should be prepared to fill out forms regarding their medical history. There will be light refreshments available, and free gym bags will be given out.

“The screening results will be immediately available and reviewed by a health counselor, who will provide each participant with a 10-year risk analysis for developing cardiovascular heart disease, based on information from the Framingham Heart Study,” says Barbanel, an occupational preventive medicine physician. “There also will be information available on related health topics, and about BU programs that can assist employees in modifying their behavior to decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Participants found to be at risk for cardiovascular problems will be offered recommendations for reducing their behavioral risk factors, such as those involving diet, exercise, and smoking. Follow-up screenings will evaluate the effectiveness of the recommendations. “We want to identify the percentage of participants who achieve their goals for blood pressure and levels of lipids, cholesterol, and glucose, based on national health guidelines,” Barbanel says. “We hope to achieve these goals by providing access to resources available at BU, including exercise, nutrition, and smoking cessation programs, as well as through the University’s health plans.”

With the employee’s consent, results of the screenings will be sent to each employee’s primary care physician, says Barbanel. Results will be strictly confidential, with only the anonymous aggregate provided to BU or to Merck, a global pharmaceutical company funding the program in conjunction with BU.

“By connecting employees with resources for management and treatment of cardiovascular disease, this program will have benefits both to individual employees and to the University,” says Barbanel. “For the University, it should increase productivity and morale and decrease health-care costs and absenteeism. If we help prevent one employee having a heart attack, that alone would pay for the program.”

For further information about the BU Cardiac Health Program, call Yolanda Rodriguez at 353-6630. To register for a health screening, call toll-free, 888-215-2663.


24 January 2003
Boston University
Office of University Relations