In February, we celebrate love with hearts and flowers for our loved ones.

For Dr. David Lee, February is no different than the rest of the year.

Hearts stay on his mind year round.

As one of the Interventional Cardiologists at Montrose Memorial Hospital (MMH), Lee specializes in Cardiac Catheterization, Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, and Balloon Angioplasty and Stent Placement.

His work includes invasive procedures in the arteries and veins that allow the department to diagnose and manage coronary disease.

“There’s probably about a dozen different areas in terms of cardiovascular disease processes that we help to diagnose, manage, and treat here.” Lee said.

Of the variety of diseases treated at MMH, the four that are most commonly seen include Coronary Disease and heart attacks, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and valvular heart disease that is often aortic heart disease in older populations.

“I think our goal is to be a resource to our community and our primary care providers.” Lee said.

“Ultimately, we want to continue to improve the cardiac care here in our community.”

With heart health, a patient’s first presentation with heart disease about 60 percent of the time, is shown with a heart attack or dying from one.

“People present more commonly the first time with their heart disease or with their coronary disease because of something unstable.” Lee said.

Because of this instability, it’s important for people to pay attention to some of what their symptoms are and what they’re feeling, as some of the things they’re experiencing may represent heart issues or heart problems.

While they can’t cure coronary disease, Lee explained that it can be managed.

During Lee’s almost seven year tenure at the hospital, he has seen an expansion of cardiac care in the community, as well as the hospital’s abilities for inpatient care.

“For our heart catheterization specifically, we’re now doing the majority of our procedures from the radial approach-from the wrist artery as opposed to from the leg artery.” Lee said.

The change has helped improve patient comfort, decrease downtime, and decrease bleeding risk.

“We’re focused on being available to our community here for patient education, to see people in the clinic setting, to deal with things before they get serious. To help manage whatever disease processes they have.”

The cardiology department aims to use all the different tools at their disposal to help people manage their heart issues, whether it’s from medications, procedures, heart catheters, or surgeries.

Lee says there are many things people can do to be healthier and make healthier decisions.

“We have programs that help people on the road to a healthier life, such as a program called Cardiac Rehabilitation.” Lee said.

“This is a structured, monitored exercise and education program for people who have had heart attacks or surgeries, or have had valve issues that required treatment for weaker hearts than normal.”

The program helps people to develop good patterns, to exercise in a controlled manner, to build up strength, to help with positive changes and improve their diet, reduce stress, and to have a place of support.

“It’s an important adjunct to the in-hospital care we can provide.” Lee said.

“The primary reason the program has evolved from what it was is due to a desire to provide the best heart attack care locally, so that we would not have to send people long distances, and we could treat them the best way possible for their heart attacks.”

This objective has served as one of the hospital’s main priorities in making sure they provide the basis for the cardiac program.

For John Crane, the Director of Cardiology Service Line at MMH, the love for the work he does has held strong.

“I started as a nurse in 1997, so I’ve been doing this a long time.” Crane said.

“I still get a rush knowing that we’re able to help somebody right here, right now. They can come up from the emergency department, up the elevator, through these doors and dying, to where we’re talking about their grandkids when we leave. That’s a rush.”

There are three interventional cardiologists on staff who share a call, Lee said.

The cardiologists are available 24/7 to ensure that any cardiac issue, primarily heart attacks, can be seen to at all hours of the day.

MMH is equipped to treat heart attacks without having to transfer a patient by ambulance or helicopter to a secondary location.

The process has been ongoing for 15 years.

“It’s been one of the accomplishments for the hospital, our program, for all of our staff, as well as our cardiologists, to say that people treated acutely by having their arteries opened, to having the heart attack aborted, will do better as a result of this.” Lee said.

The cardiology department hopes to continue to pursue “significant disease management and prevention.”

“I’m getting older” is not an answer to your heart health issues, Lee said.

“The reality here is that the majority of patients we treat for cardiovascular issues are older, especially for coronary disease. The age in which these issues become more manifested and more significant tend to be older as well.”

Lee wants patients to know that they can be healthy and return to all of the activities they were doing before their heart attack occurred.

“We encourage a framework to focus on the things you can do to be healthy and well.” Lee said. “We should not accept feeling tired, being short of breath, not being able to do things, and having chest discomfort when we move around the room. We can’t accept these as symptoms of “getting older.”

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