Michele Pilon: Transylvania Regional Hospital Helps Community Members Lower Their Risk for Heart Disease, Recover from a Heart Attack and Raise Awareness about Women’s Heart Health

Michele PilonBy Michele Pilon
President/Chief Nursing Officer, Transylvania Regional Hospital

We associate February with love, and this year I ask you to love yourself by learning about how to take care of your heart. February is National Heart Month which makes it the ideal time to remind everyone that Transylvania Regional Hospital (TRH) is dedicated to educating the community about lowering heart attack risk, maintaining heart health and learning how to identify the signs of a heart attack, which can differ significantly between men and women.

Alarmingly, heart disease continues to be the leading killer of both men and women in the United States. The encouraging news is that there is much you can do to lower your risk. According to Elizabeth Galloway, MSW, Exercise Physiologist, MS and Exercise Specialist for the TRH Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, the importance of stress reduction and moving our bodies frequently can’t be overemphasized. “Take the stairs, park a distance away from your destination, practice balancing at home and start out doing five chair rises, two or three times a day if you can tolerate it, with the goal of working up to more,” she says. Tracy Brethauer, Clinical Cardiology RN, urges everyone to remember diet is a key driver of heart health, explaining that “recent studies have shown that eating a whole-food, plant-based diet can improve health and quality of life.” Both Brethauer and Galloway cite spending time with friends and family as a great, affordable way to de-stress.

Should the unthinkable happen and you or a loved one experience a heart attack, TRH offers advanced diagnostic care and immediate treatment in our emergency department. If required, you will be rapidly transferred to Mission Hospital, one of the most sophisticated cardiac programs in the nation, as evidenced by IBM Watson Health’s repeated rankings of Mission Health as one of the nation’s Top 15 Health Systems and Mission Hospital as one of the Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospitals in America. During recovery, TRH’s Intensive Care Unit is here for patients who need the most intensive care and our step-down unit is designed for patients who don’t require ICU level care but need closer monitoring than is offered by our general medical-surgical unit.

Our Cardiac Rehabilitation Program offers wide ranging services and programs to promote healing for those who have survived a heart attack, and to lower the chances that they will suffer another. This 36-session program meets three times per week for an hour-and-a-half. Patient heart rhythms and rates are monitored during sessions, which include a warm-up followed by aerobic circuit training that includes treadmill, stationary bike, weights and/or SkiErg (a machine that mimics skiing) components, and a cool-down. Additionally, we offer classes on stress reduction, nutrition and other issues related to maintaining heart health.

We’re also fortunate to have the Asheville Cardiology clinic right here on our campus, a facility that’s equipped with state-of-the-art screening tools where Todd Hansen, MD, and James Usedom, MD, follow, advise and care for patients, whether they are simply assessing their risk of heart disease, consulting with them on testing procedures or creating care plans for those in recovery.

It’s important to remember that heart attacks can look different for women – we have symptoms that may be quite dissimilar to men’s, including nausea, shortness of breath and back or jaw pain. Women are disproportionately affected if they have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes, and it takes longer for women to get diagnosed and treated for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association [1]. Galloway also cited a Harvard study that strongly linked women’s job stress and cardiovascular disease; those with the most stressful work had a 40 percent greater risk of heart disease. “It’s especially important for women to take care of their mental health because they tend to internalize stress more than men,” adds Galloway. To help raise awareness of this healthcare disparity, the American Heart Association created National Wear Red Day, which happened on February 1 this year. Everyone is encouraged to wear red that day to honor a woman they know who has heart disease or who they have lost from heart disease.

But our unwavering goal is to prevent heart disease altogether. Rest assured that you’re in good hands at TRH, and that we’re here to educate you about lowering your heart disease risk, and to provide you with the most advanced care should you need it.


Michele Pilon, MS, BSN, RN, NE-BC, is the President and CNO of Transylvania Regional Hospital. Her diverse professional experience includes service as a bedside nurse and over a decade as a leader at healthcare institutions in Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina. Ms. Pilon earned a Bachelor’s in Nursing from Ohio’s University of Akron and a Masters in Health Services Administration from the University of St. Francis in Illinois; she is also a Board-Certified Nursing Executive.

Transylvania Regional Hospital