Northwestern Medicine, Living Heart Foundation Team Up for Cardiovascular Health

Northwestern Medicine
Cardiology May 08, 2019

Northwestern Medicine and the Living Heart Foundation* teamed up on May 4th to offer cardiovascular screenings and basic physicals to former National Football League players.

“This population comes at risk for heart disease as they stop playing,” said Ike S. Okwuosa, MD, a heart failure specialist in the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Their metabolism slows down, they gain weight and they are exposed to more cardiovascular risk factors.”

Arthur “Archie” Roberts, MD, a former cardiac surgeon who played for the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns in the 1960s, founded Living Heart Foundation in 2001. Living Heart Foundation partners with hospitals to offer cardiovascular screenings throughout the United States to former NFL players five times a year.

“We started screening high school athletes, then moved to college and professional players, emphasizing screening and early intervention for cardiac, pulmonary and metabolic conditions,” Dr. Roberts said. “We’ve done nearly 6,000 physicals on former players since Living Heart Foundation started offering them in 2004.”

Northwestern Medicine physicians as well as medical students, residents, nurses and medical assistants participated in the daylong event, held in the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute clinic space on Galter 19.

Andre Collins, a former outside linebacker who played 10 seasons in the NFL and now works with the National Football League Players Association, said there is a subculture in professional football that makes these screenings popular with former players and their wives, who were also offered the medical services.

“Going through the system there is always a team physician for the college team, then a team physician in the NFL,” Collins said. “For a lot of players this is their annual visit to the doctor.”

He added a goal of the screenings is to educate former players on cardiovascular fitness, stroke and heart disease.

The education component was one reason Dr. Okwuosa was eager to participate.

“The best way to prevent heart failure is to prevent heart disease,” he said. “This population is at risk, and we are able to help.”

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