Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both American men and women, accounting for approximately one in every four deaths. At Lake Charles Memorial Hospital and West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital, Dr. John Winterton helps his patients fight this deadly foe.
Even though the 54-year-old Shreveport native has been a cardiologist for 22 years, the work is still meaningful and exciting for Dr. Winterton. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and LSU School of Medicine, Dr. Winterton said the work allows him to care for critically ill patients, perform intricate surgeries, and study interesting physiology. He has always enjoyed solving complicated problems, and solving problems is a major part of his work.
The evolving science also keeps things fresh for Dr. Winterton. He said as recently as 40 years ago, patients with congestive heart failure would simply be given diuretics to try to get rid of fluids and hope for the best. Now, there are much more advanced drugs and procedures available to doctors and patients.
Dr. Winterton believes that forming a relationship with a patient is important not just for the sake of kindness (although that is important). He said it’s vital because if you truly listen to a patient, then you will more often than not be able to make an accurate diagnosis of what’s troubling them.
“Having a relationship with your patients is the essence of medicine,” Dr. Winterton said.
While there have been many memorable patients in Dr. Winterton’s career, one that sticks out for him was a long-time patient who was suffering from heart valve disease that turned into heart failure. The man was on the verge of death.
“He couldn’t walk across the room without feeling like he was drowning,” Dr. Winterton said.
But Dr. Winterton was able to perform the LVAD (left ventricular assist device) procedure for his patient. The surgery brought the man back from the brink and allowed him to return to his family with a dramatically improved quality of life. The man eventually succumbed to heart failure, but the procedure gave him several precious years with his loved ones that he otherwise would not have had.
At the end of the day, helping patients is what makes the long hours and extensive training required by the medical profession worthwhile for Dr. Winterton.
“It’s more than a job; it’s a vocation,” Dr. Winterton said.
When he is not practicing medicine, Dr. Winterton enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 children, as well as participating in outdoor activities like hunting and fishing. He is also a devoted follower of his alma mater Notre Dame’s football team.
TIPS FROM DR. WINTERTON
Know your risk factors and limit or eliminate the ones you can. Family history, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and smoking are the biggest causes of heart disease.
While some people experience the stereotypical chest pain during a heart attack, this is not always the case. “People often have more vague symptoms like shortness of breath,” said Dr. Winterton. Other symptoms can include nausea or a general sustained feeling of fatigue during normal activity.
Whatever symptoms you may be experiencing, do not ignore it. Seek medical attention immediately. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.