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Thank you for subscribing to Heart Health, an Avera eNewsletter that provides you with useful information about cardiac care and prevention. We believe a healthy lifestyle starts with a strong heart. To learn more about our services and community events, or to find a physician, visit www.Avera.org.

To your health,

The Avera Staff


While most people have a heart murmur at some time in their lives, they are usually harmless. Your doctor can determine if a heart murmur is more serious and requires treatment.

A heart murmur means that the blood moving through or near your heart sounds much louder than usual; it can sound like a whooshing or squishing. People of all ages can have heart murmurs, and often, they don't even know about them.

"Almost everyone has a heart murmur," says Cardiologist Dr. Michael Hibbard of North Central Heart Institute. "However, for many people, heart murmurs do not have serious consequences."

Heart murmurs can occur when a valve is leaking and blood is moving backwards; in other cases, the blood is moving turbulently through a narrowed blood vessel. If a doctor does detect that you have a heart murmur, be sure to take the doctor's recommendations and follow up. Some heart murmurs can indicate more serious conditions, such as a mitral valve prolapse , which is when a heart valve doesn't close the way it should, or a hole in the heart.

Click here to watch an Avera Medical Minute video about a patient who had a heart murmur.

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Did you know that everyone is born with a hole in the heart? Usually the holes close on their own, but they don't in about 20 percent of the population. The holes are most commonly detected in echocardiograms and can be treated with a minimally invasive procedure.

While a baby is developing in the womb, there is a hole between the two upper chambers of the heart. This allows the blood to flow while the baby is developing. Since the baby isn't breathing yet, the blood doesn't need to go through the lungs to collect oxygen. The hole, called the patent foramen ovale , closes within two years of birth.

Doctors aren't sure why the hole doesn't close for some people. "For most patients, the patent foramen ovale doesn't cause a problem," says Dr. Michael Bacharach of North Central Heart Institute in Sioux Falls, S.D. "It's only a small number that get into trouble, and they could have an embolic phenomenon, a clot or plaque goes across the hole, which can cause a stroke or blockage somewhere else in the body."

To repair this congenital defect, physicians insert a disk-like device that blocks the hole. Today, the procedure can be done without resorting to open-heart surgery; the disk can be inserted through the leg with a small tube and wire. The Avera Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D., offers treatment and closure of patent foramen ovales.

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A stir-fry can be a heart-healthy entrée that has very low fat but lots of protein from the meat and nutrients from the vegetables. For more Avera Heart Hospital recipes that are good for your heart, click here.

1 lb beef flank steak, well-trimmed
2 T oriental sesame oil, divided
2 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 T fresh ginger, minced
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small can whole baby corn
4 ounces snow pea pods, julienned

Partially freeze beef flank steak to firm (approx. 30 minutes). Cut steak in half lengthwise; cut each half across the grain into 1/8-inch thick strips. Combine 1 T. sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and cornstarch; pour over beef strips, tossing to coat. Heat remaining sesame oil in wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add red pepper flakes, garlic and ginger; cook 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and corn; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add pea pods; stir-fry 30 seconds. Remove vegetables from pan; reserve. Stir-fry beef strips (half at a time) 2 to 3 minutes. Return vegetables and beef to pan and heat through. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Nutrients per Serving
Calories: 262; Protein: 25g; Carbohydrates: 8g; Total Fat: 14g; Saturated Fat: 4g; Mono: 5g; Fiber: 2g; Sodium: 355mg; Omega 3 Fats: <1g; Magnesium: 29mg; Potassium: 382mg

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Heart Health is one in a series of Avera eNewsletters that gives readers valuable information about health and wellness at Avera facilities. It is not intended to replace personal medical advice, which should be obtained directly from a physician.