Louida Miller, a native of Southern California, came from a close-knit family that believed in higher learning. She earned her Ph.D. in business administration in 2017 from Argosy University in Los Angeles.
Miller is best known by filmmakers around the globe as “Lou,” the office manager and program assistant for the annual Pan African Film Festival, directed by co-founder and Executive Director Ayuko Babu and General Manager/Director of Programming Asantewa Olatunji.
Along with a strong family value focused on education, the family’s health risk factors were prevalent.
Miller’s mother died from heart disease and her father from colon cancer. Both parents had Native-American roots and encouraged a healthy lifestyle.
“My parents believed in preventative health care and we visited the doctor and dental office regularly,” said Miller who is now 72. “I am very conscious about my health; therefore, I never smoked and rarely drink alcohol.”
In spite of the preventative measures taken by Miller’s parents, her eight sibilings each suffered from serious medical illnesses that developed as they got older. She lost one of her siblings to an aneurysm and others from heart disease.
Her sister, Roberta Jarmon, died of an acute massive cerebral infarct and lupus of the brain in 1997 at 51. Miiller’s brother, Lawrence Jarmon, who earned a Ph.D. in education, suffered from coronary artery disease and died at 64 in 2011. He was the vice president for student services at Los Angeles Southwest College.
“My family was active, athletic, but with a history of health issues, it seems we were pre-destined for a shortened lifespan,” said Miller, who ran track, played basketball, tennis and bowled. “My brother Lawrence was an all-conference football player having played on various teams: New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Rams.”
“My first health scare was in the late 90s when I suffered from a mild heart attack,” Miller said. “I was attending a church brunch and felt tightness in my chest.” She suffers from heartburn and assumed that was the cause of her discomfort.
Weeks later, her heart began to beat rapidly and pain radiated in her right arm. She was taken to emergency for medical attention.
“I was told I had a mild heart attack,” she said. She remained in the hospital for a week for observation and medication was prescribed.
Years after that first heart attack, during low-impact exercising in 2012 — walking and aerobics — Miller would profusely sweat, have shortness of breath and had to stop the activity.
“I had no chest pain but I felt weak and fatigued,” she said. “When I felt a little better, I went to the emergency room to seek treatment.”
The intake nurse was quite surprised that Miller drove alone to the hospital because her heartbeat per minute was very low. Miller was connected to an IV and put on a monitor to raise her heartbeat.
While getting treatment, Miller realized it was time to administer medicated eye drops to treat her glaucoma.
“My doctor observed the eye drops and told me not to put them in my eyes because they are betablockers and one of my other prescribed medications for my previous heart attack is a beta blocker,” she said. Miller remained in the hospital for about a week.
“I diagnosed Ms. Miller with sick sinus syndrome and atrial fibrillation,” said Dr. Juma Bharadia, who is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular diseases and interventional cardiology at California Hospital Medical Center. “Her heart was beating 30 times per minute and it should be beating 60 times per minute.”
An estimated 2.7 to 6.1 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation. With the aging of the U.S. population, this number is expected to increase. Atrial fibrillation is the cause of more than 750,000 hospitalizations annually and contributes to nearly 130,000 deaths each year.
Sick sinus syndrome, also known as sinus bradycardia (slow heart rate), is present because of disease of the sinus node. It is a disorder of older people and is most commonly found in people over 70.
“Atrial fibrillation can run in the family, which is called familial atrial fibrillation. It has been associated with changes in certain genes in a small number of cases,” said Dr. Rekha Mankad, a noninvasive cardiologist with special interest in heart disease in women, heart disease associated with autoimmune conditions, and valvular heart diseases at the Mayo Clinic.
“Although the exact incidence of familial atrial fibrillation is unknown, recent studies suggest that up to 30 percent of people with atrial fibrillation may have a relative with the condition.”
Some people who have atrial fibrillation don’t know they have it and don’t have any symptoms. Others may experience one or more of the following symptoms: chest pain, extreme fatigue, heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, lightheadedness and shortness of breath.
“Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common cardiac rhythm disorders (arrhythmia) in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 2.7 to 6.1 million people in the United States currently have atrial fibrillation, with about 9 percent of people aged 65 years or older currently affected,” said Dr. Matthew Mintz. “The risk of getting atrial fibrillation increases with age. The lifetime risk of developing atrial fibrillation as an adult (age 40 to age 95) is about 25 percent (a bit higher in men at 26 percent and slightly lower in women at 23 percent). Atrial fibrillation is associated with an almost 3 times increased risk of dying, and this is the same for both men and women.”
Dr. Mintz explains that, “Unlike other heart disease where the problem lies with blood flow to the heart (heart attack or myocardial infarction) or effectiveness of the heart pumping blood (congestive heart failure), atrial fibrillation is a rhythm problem, i.e there is not necessarily anything wrong with the heart, but the beating is a bit off.”
To treat heartbeats that are too slow, Dr. Bharadia implanted a dual chamber pacemaker under Miller’s skin in the location of her heart. The heart rhythms that cause bradycardia are sick sinus syndrome and heart block. Pacemakers usually eliminate the symptoms caused by bradycardia including weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness or loss of consciousness.
There are various types of pacemakers — typically the size of a 50-cent piece but getting smaller as technology improves — designed to restore or sustain a regular heartbeat in different ways. Pacemakers can be single, dual or triple chambered.
Single-chamber pacemakers have one lead to carry impulses to and from either the right atrium or right ventricle.
A dual-chamber pacemaker characteristically has two leads, one to the right atrium and one to the right ventricle.
Triple-chambered pacemakers typically have one lead in the right atrium, one to stimulate the right ventricle, and one to stimulate the left ventricle.
“I told Ms. Miller that during the first six weeks, she should not stretch her arms over her head,” said Dr. Bharadia. “I also told her to carry the medical card acknowledging that she has a pacemaker, especially to avoid security checkpoints that use metal detectors.” Pacemakers are generally not compatible with MRIs.
“Since the procedure, my heart is doing well,” Miller said. “I feel safer knowing that my heart has the support necessary to prevent heart attacks and strokes.”
Afib Matters – www.afibmatters.org
Mayo Clinic – www.mayoclinic.org
Centers for Prevention and Disease Control – www.cdc.gov
Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP – www.drmintz.com
Juma Bharadia, MD – www.i-cardiology.net
Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to email@example.com and look for her column in The Wave.