He advises that preventing heart disease is possible, even when family history makes it seems inevitable.
CHICAGO, IL, September 22, 2017 /24-7PressRelease/ — When asked what he does as both a cardiologist and internist, Dr. Harry Cohen replies with the brevity of a medical samurai following his bushido (code of honor). “I prevent the preventable.”
This brief mission statement aptly summarizes how this kind-hearted and conscientious physician approaches his Chicago-based practice. Having practiced cardiology and internal medicine for thirty years, Cohen strongly believes that the best time to visit his office is well before the symptoms of heart disease and related illnesses present themselves.
“Usually, people come to me because they are worried that something is wrong with their heart, and I view it as an opportunity to address the issue and help them with it,” he explains. “But one of the things I greatly enjoy doing is seeing people who don’t have a heart problem but have a family history that puts them at risk. In those instances, I can provide advice and consultation, allowing them to move ahead as the years and decades progress. Often they will not have the heart problem I believe they would have had–because they started looking into it in their twenties.”
Cohen’s vast experience has taught him that by the time his patients experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or chronic fatigue and call to make an appointment, their medical problems may have progressed to the point where significant medical intervention may be necessary. “It is far better for people to begin checking for heart-related problems much earlier than they think, especially if they have a family history of heart disease,” he declares. “Catching potential problems early not only helps people live longer, but also helps them live better.”
One of Dr. Cohen’s most important missions is to educate people that most heart health challenges can be managed, reduced or even eliminated by lifestyle changes if they are identified at their early stages.
Most people assume that, as a cardiologist, Dr. Cohen mainly focuses on the heart itself. As a board-certified internist as well as a board-certified cardiologist, he is comfortable looking beyond that narrow focus to identify other health issues that might lead to heart problems down the road.
“I’m glad and enthusiastic when I can explore these other issues because treating them will result in good heart health over time,” he said. “Looking into blood circulation issues, for example, is really important for me because the circulatory and cardiac systems are really part of the same system. Knowing that patients or their family members have had circulatory problems helps me determine if patients are at higher risk for heart problems in the future. I’m happy to address these circulatory issues, knowing that in some cases, heart issues may also be identified.”
Cookie-cutter approaches to practicing medicine do not sit well with Dr. Cohen. He first focuses on the patient as an individual, so he can determine what tests and other consultation are appropriate for that person. He performs a variety of tests that check heart functioning, such as stress tests; ultrasound examinations of the heart (echocardiograms); electrocardiograms to make sure the heart rhythm is as it should be, ultrasounds of the veins and arteries.
When a patient’s heart condition warrants, he performs cardiac procedures such as installing stents and performing angioplasties. Cohen works collaboratively with other specialists including heart or vascular surgeons to help with treatment. Because he is both an internist and cardiologist, he is able to determine if respiratory problems are heart-related. His multi-faceted training and experience enable him to make sure a range of medical issues that might affect the heart are appropriately investigated rather than put on the back burner. “Almost any medical condition that prevents the body from functioning normally has the potential to affect the heart,” he explained. Conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes definitely can affect the heart and Cohen is quite comfortable bringing them into line. He points out that even in 2017, heart disease is still the major health issue that affects adults in the United States, men or women.
One might ask, given the large presence of heart disease in the population, why people don’t visit cardiologists to be tested early, just as they get an annual physical exam? Cohen believes that when it comes to heart disease, there tend to be two schools of thought among cardiologists. Some physicians tend to wait until a patient doesn’t feel well and the heart problem “announces” itself and then they deal with it. The second school of thought is to try to be ahead of the curve in the first place, by determining the presence of conditions before symptoms arise.
Cohen firmly adheres to the second approach. “Often, by the time problems announce themselves, the problems causing the symptoms are already advanced and many options for treatment aren’t available,” he said. “Early detection can turn the ‘inevitable’ into the preventable, by preventing conditions that lead to major heart disease or stroke down the road if they are not detected early.”
Living longer, living better
The good news is that many of the medical conditions that cause heart disease are much more preventable and treatable today than they were a generation ago. “Today, we understand a great deal more about how the heart works,” said Cohen. “We understand how the heart gets sick and how to make it better. We know how to anticipate those problems that affected our parents and grandparents. That makes cardiology very fulfilling for me and gives my patients a huge advantage as compared with patients of yesteryear.”
With patients living longer and better as his goal, Dr. Cohen’s first objective is to deal with any problems that are present currently, making them feel sick. Once those issues have been addressed, he examines other health-related issues that could cause problems down the road. “By taking a broader and more long-term look at my patients’ health, I can help them make appropriate changes to prevent heart problems from ever occurring. I pride myself on having ongoing long-term relationships with my patients. By working with them as time goes forward, I can prevent things from happening so they have a much greater chance of living longer and, just as importantly, enjoying a greater quality of life.”
Cohen, with due modesty, admits he has been blessed to receive very positive feedback from patients and their families, expressing that they are happy and grateful for his long-term approach, as it is a way of practicing they haven’t often experienced with other doctors. “Some doctors are very oriented toward problem-solving so they prefer dealing with patients who have symptoms that can be addressed right now,” Cohen explained. “This works for patients who have current health problems, but it leaves out the prevention, which I personally believe should be just as important.”
Focus on the patient as an individual
While it seems that the medical profession is becoming too business-oriented, Cohen hasn’t and never will operate his practice based on quantity over quality. “I give my patients whatever time they need, so we can solve their health issues together,” he said. “Every patient is a unique individual and it’s very important to me, personally and professionally, that I take the necessary time with each patient to fully understand his or her health issues.”
Taking advantage of modern cardiology
Because of advances in today’s medical technology, that make medical equipment better yet smaller, cardiologists can perform many tests in their office without sending their patients to a hospital. Cohen performs many tests in his office, making it possible to learn a great deal about a patient’s heart health during a standard office visit–no hospital visit required.
“Patients should understand that these tests can be done right in our office, more quickly, comfortably and at a lower cost than if they were performed in a hospital,” he said. “By performing these tests in my office, I also can be assured of their quality.”
These tests include an electrocardiogram, which lets him know if the heart has gone out of rhythm. A stress test can tell him if the patient has a serious blockage to the heart. An echocardiogram can tell him if the heart is weak, if heart valve damage has occurred in the past, or if the person is at risk for a stroke. Ultrasound examinations of the heart and the neck can also tell him about a person’s stroke risk, while ultrasounds of a person’s abdomen can let him see if there are circulatory problems caused by age or disease. He also can check for blood clots and aneurysms in the veins of the legs or other areas of the body.
Modern medicine has learned that formerly popular tests such as x-rays and other tests involving radioactive materials, including stress tests using a radioactive tracer, aren’t as free of risk as was once thought. Dr. Cohen has developed approaches and techniques that do not expose his patients to radiation. “The only time we use radiation is if someone needs an angiogram of the heart, a procedure that is done in a hospital,” said Cohen. “Angiograms are only used when doctors are sure there is an artery blockage. The angiogram can help them locate it and perhaps save the patient’s life.”
Cohen points out that today’s treatments for heart problems are very helpful–some even groundbreaking. “Medications available to us today were not available to our parents and grandparents and they have revolutionized the practice of cardiology,” he said. “There are medications for cholesterol, for blockages to the heart, and for circulatory problems. These are clearly helping people slow down the progression of their heart problems so they live longer and better, and improve their quality of life.”
Modern medications also, on many occasions, allow patients to avoid or delay more invasive procedures for dealing with heart problems. When these issues are detected early and medications are brought to bear on them, the need for more serious procedures later in life actually may be eliminated.
Another advantage for today’s heart patients is that many of the more major procedures are significantly less invasive than in the past. There are Instruments that let doctors perform minimally invasive surgery using x-rays to guide them, rather than having to make a big incision. There also is less need for anesthesia. Procedures such as stents and angioplasty often can be done with local anesthesia and an intravenous medication that creates “twilight sleep,” as Cohen puts it, avoiding the need to put patients fully to sleep using gas or other agents that have side effects. Often, patients can go home from the hospital much sooner than in the past.
Lifestyle choices including diet impact heart health
Achieving an optimal blood pressure for long-term heart health, generally considered to be 120/70, can be attained for most people by a combination of medicine, diet, and exercise. “People are often unaware that there are changes they can make in their diet that will help their heart health but still let them enjoy life,” said Cohen. “We now understand that the health of the digestive system is very important to heart health. We also know that sugar and carbohydrates play an important role, maybe an even more significant role, than salt and saturated fat.” Dr. Cohen makes it a point to stay up to date on the latest thinking regarding diet and heart health and he works with his patients to develop food strategies that keep their heart health on track.
Taking the Preventative Approach
With heart disease still being the most common health problem among both men and women, Dr. Cohen strongly believes that prevention is the way to go for everyone. But what does the term “preventative cardiology” mean?
Dr. Cohen’s case for his preventative approach is underscored by the fact that he also is an internist and, as such, he can perform annual physical exams which include an electrocardiogram. “Keeping your whole body healthy means keeping your heart healthy.” He recommends that individuals in their twenties, even when they have never been told they have a health problem, visit a cardiologist for evaluation purposes. This is especially true for people who have a family history of heart disease. “By being preventatively evaluated as a younger adult, if anything is found that could eventually lead to a heart problem later–high blood pressure, high cholesterol, circulatory issues–it can be dealt with right away and you may never have that serious heart problem when you are older, or it may be much less severe, or its onset could be much later,” he explained.
“Preventing heart disease, reducing its impact and delaying it. That what preventative cardiology is all about. If you think about it when you’re younger, you may not have to think about it when you’re older. It’s really that simple.”
Helping people with their medical issues and helping them devise a health-promoting diet, exercise regimen and lifestyle are all part of the job. To illustrate, Dr. Cohen likens his cardiology practice to maintain your car on a regular basis. “I’m going to give you a multi-point inspection every time you come in. I’m not going to wait until parts fail. I check out everything every time I see you. “My goal is to keep you and your heart going, with a lifetime warranty, never having to replace parts. Your heart–your whole body for that matter, runs better on its original equipment,” he said, with a grin.
About Harry Cohen, M.D.
Dr. Harry Cohen has practiced cardiology and internal medicine for 30 years and has served as a medical educator, researcher, lecturer and presenter at numerous conferences and symposia throughout his professional career. Since heart disease continues to be the largest health problem, statistically, facing both men and women, he is a strong advocate for the practice of preventive cardiology and believes that individuals with a family history of heart disease should begin cardiologic examinations, and embrace a heart-healthy lifestyle, while still in their twenties to prevent significant heart problems later in life.
Dr. Cohen earned his Doctor of Medicine degree from New York Medical College in 1984 and pursued post-graduate study in cardiology and internal medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital and Medical Center in New York City. Dr. Cohen is licensed to practice medicine in New York, New Jersey, Illinois and New Mexico.
He has earned a variety of medical certifications, including Diplomate, National Board of Examiners in 1984; Diplomate, American Board of Internal Medicine in 1987; Diplomate, Subspecialty Board of Cardiovascular Disease, American Board of Internal Medicine in 1989; and Diplomate of the National Board of Echocardiography with certification in Adult Transthoracic Plus Stress Echocardiography in 2009. He is a Fellow of the American Collee of Cardiology and the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions.
In addition to his private practice at CardioMedical Associates, Ltd., with Chicago offices at 2800 N. Sheridan Road, Suite 100, and 9000 S. Stony Island Avenue. Dr. Cohen has been an attending physician at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago since 1990; Consulting Physician at Kindred Hospitals of Chicago since 1997; General Attending Physician at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago since 1998; Associate Attending Physician, Swedish Covenant Hospital, Chicago, since 2000; and Attending Physician at North Shore Hospital in Evanston, Illinois since 2001. He also served as Associate Attending Physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago from 1998 to 2007 and Attending Physician at Holy Cross Hospital in Taos, New Mexico from 2008 to 2017.
As an educator, Dr. Cohen served as Clinical Instructor of Medicine at Northwestern University School of Medicine from 1993 to 2007, and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine since 2008.
Through his professional writings and lectures, he has addressed a variety of topics pertaining to cardiology, preventive cardiology, heart health, and the role of the internist in promoting heart health.
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