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Louisiana doctors working to bring more resources, cardiologists to rural communities

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Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 12:40 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Having access to a heart doctor is not easy, and that is what doctors across Louisiana are working to change.

“Health in the rural communities is not as good,” said Dr. Federico De Puy, volunteer expert for the American Heart Association and cardiologist with Our Lady of the Lake. “There is not as much access to primary care, even less access to cardiovascular care.”

Heart health is top of mind in February. Cardiologists like Dr. Federico De Puy are educating more men and women about heart disease.

“Some of these interventions will start to decrease those disparities, and incidentally, over the past several years, there has been a decrease in those numbers,” said De Puy.

Check out this graphic by the American Heart Association.

It shows the age-adjusted total cardiovascular disease mortality rates by race and ethnicity. It shows Black adults are 32-percent more likely to die from CVD.

If we look back at 2008, Non-Hispanic Blacks had a rate of just over 340 per 100,000 people. That number went down to about 290 in 2018.

Non-Hispanic whites around 251 in 2008, going down to about 220 in 2018.

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Numbers are going down over time, but De Puy added there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“Some of it has to do with genetics,” said De Puy. “A lot of African-Americans are salt sensitive, and so it’s easier for them to get hypertension, and that will affect them more. In Hispanic communities, because of cultural norms, we like to eat more tortillas. For example, a tortilla will have a higher carb content than a can of coke.”

Dr. Nakia Newsome, a Cardiologist at Baton Rouge General, is educating patients using a visual heart model.

“I think in urban cities, even cities in Baton Rouge you do have a center for health care, and as people have more access, we’re venturing out into the rural areas and making it easier to get into clinic,” said Dr. Newsome.

His team has been reaching out to rural area patients through outreach programs. While Dr. De Puy said it’s important to check in with your primary care physician if you have one.

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He said they are the quarterback when it comes to your health.

The American Heart Association said a simple first step is checking your blood pressure. You can get it checked at Walgreens or at home.

Also, if you’re feeling chest discomfort or more out of breath, those are also things to watch out for.

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