Keeping the heart healthy: FSU faculty available to comment for American Heart Month

| Tue, 01/30/24
(Adobe Stock Image)
Florida State University faculty are available to speak to reporters covering heart health during American Heart Month. (Adobe Stock Image)

The American Heart Association spotlights cardiovascular health every February during American Heart Month. Understanding the risk factors that contribute to heart disease and how to manage that risk helps people live longer, healthier lives.

Researchers at Florida State University examine heart health on a personal and community level. They are available to speak to the media:

Laurie S. Abbott, Ph.D., RN, DipACLM, PHNA-BC, associate professor, College of Nursing
(850) 644-6008; 

Abbott’s research focuses on health promotion and prevention of chronic diseases among rural populations. As a board-certified, advanced public health nurse, she has conducted research to explore factors impacting health and has implemented culturally relevant evidence-based cardiovascular disease risk interventions in rural communities.

“Cardiovascular disease is a major cause of death and disability among people living in the United States. Rural populations are disproportionately burdened by heart disease and its contributory conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, and they have greater barriers related to accessing public health services and resources. My research is intended to help bridge these gaps by fostering an understanding of the drivers of rural disparities and exploring the acceptability and efficacy of innovative research strategies that promote health and reduce cardiovascular and other chronic disease risks and exacerbation. Hopefully, my work can combine with the efforts of others to advance health equity and improve overall health and well-being.”

P. Bryant Chase, Ph.D., FAHA, professor of Biological Science, College of Arts & Sciences
(850) 645-4775; 

Chase studies cellular and molecular biomechanics and the structure of striated cardiac and skeletal muscles. Current research examines genetic variants in cardiac troponin that cause hypertrophic or dilated cardiomyopathies. Troponin is the calcium ion sensor that regulates the contraction of the heart and pumping of the blood. It is central to the heart’s function, and small changes in the troponin gene’s DNA sequence may result in detrimental changes in the heart’s ability to pump blood. Chase was recognized as a Fellow of the American Heart Association (AHA) in 2002.

“Heart disease is personal. Too many of us have family members who have experienced heart problems. When we talk about the cardiovascular system in class, students see American Heart Association statistics that show how devastating cardiovascular diseases are for society. But we note that the research is working — the statistics are trending in the right direction. I support AHA in many ways, including by doing research that provides insights into normal heart function and how that changes with disease. I never met my paternal grandfather, and my son and daughter never met their paternal grandfather, because of heart disease. But with advances in care, I am fortunate to experience the joys of being with my grandchildren.”

Lucinda J. Graven, associate professor, College of Nursing
(850) 644-5601; 

Graven’s research is centered on enhancing physical and mental health for individuals with heart failure and their family care partners by creating and evaluating cognitive-behavioral interventions. The Coping in Heart Failure Partnership, initially tested in heart failure patients, has been modified and recently tested in rural patients with heart failure and their care partners to identify and implement strategies for addressing heart failure-related challenges in the home. She is currently enrolling veterans who have heart failure in a new study funded by the Veterans Administration Office of Rural Health to further refine and assess this intervention for long-term effectiveness in improving self-care and emotional health. Graven has served on the writing groups of two AHA scientific statements, which guide practice guidelines and policy initiatives. She was honored as a Fellow of the American Heart Association in 2019 and the American Academy of Nursing in 2022.

“Because of the limitations of our current health care system, more heart failure care has moved from the hospital to the home. However, managing heart failure in the home is complex. In certain areas, particularly rural communities, there are few resources to assist in the home care of heart failure patients, leaving patients and care partners without critical support to manage the daily challenges associated with heart failure. Problem-solving skills are necessary to decipher these challenges and develop effective strategies to better manage heart failure-related problems in the home. My research addresses this need through the development and testing of interventions which help patients and care partners learn key problem-solving skills to support physical and mental health in the home and reduce health care utilization.”

Jose Renato Pinto, professor, College of Medicine
(850) 645-0016; 

Pinto’s research focuses on the regulation of cardiac and skeletal muscle, particularly in the context of inherited diseases and the mechanisms governing contraction. In his laboratory, efforts are directed toward devising novel genetic and molecular strategies aimed at combating muscle diseases. Pinto’s work aims to elucidate the role of the protein troponin in both heart development and disease. The research also delves into understanding how chemical modifications to various proteins impact muscle contraction and contribute to heart disease.

“The heart can be seen as a pump that never rests until we die. Our studies are devoted to the understanding of the function of muscle proteins that are responsible for the continuous pumping of the heart. More specifically, we look at atomic interactions within this intricate protein network of the heart in health and disease. Our research can be used as the fundamental basis for the development of new therapies to combat various forms of heart disease.”