Health-care providers and researchers with the University of Louisville are available to discuss any of the following health topics this week. Click on the headline or scroll down for more information:



    Preventable heart disease is increasing among children but parents can prevent it by fostering lifestyle changes, says a University of Louisville pediatric cardiologist.

    “The increase in preventable heart disease is largely believed to be due to a rise in childhood obesity,” said Lucinda T. Wright, M.D., who practices with UofL Physicians-Pediatric Cardiology and is on staff at Norton Children’s Hospital.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Currently, about one in five children ages 6 to 19 is obese. The known association between obesity and elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels and Type 2 diabetes beginning in childhood and persisting into adulthood all are known risk factors for the development of early heart disease.

    Parents can help reduce their child’s risk for heart disease by teaching healthy lifestyle habits early in life. “Lifestyle behaviors associated with heart disease definitely start during childhood,” Wright said. “Habits such as eating a well-balanced and healthy diet, maintaining an active lifestyle with regular aerobic exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and not using tobacco should be taught at a very young age.”

    Wright emphasizes that parents are their child’s first role models. “Children learn what they see at home, and parents should model the healthy lifestyle they want for their children. Plan physical activities together, spend time outside together, let them see you exercising and include them in the activities you enjoy. Plan healthy meals together, grocery shop together and cook together” to prevent heart disease in children, she said.



    Most teenagers look forward to obtaining their driver’s license when they turn 16, but driving seemed out of reach for Kennedy Raley. The college freshman has Stargardt Disease, a congenital eye condition that causes her to have a blind spot in the center of her vision.

    With the help of Andrea Smith-Gray, O.D., however, Raley has her driver’s license and the freedom and independence that goes with it. Smith-Gray is an optometrist with UofL Physicians Eye Specialists who fits qualifying visually impaired individuals with bioptic telescopes, enabling them to drive safely. Smith-Gray is the only optometrist in Louisville who is fitting individuals with the devices, which are standard eyeglasses with a tiny telescope mounted on the front that magnifies road signs and objects directly in front of the driver.

    See more of Raley’s story in the video.

    Bioptic lenses also can enable visually impaired people in other tasks that require magnification of details.

    Visually impaired drivers who hope to take advantage of bioptic driving must meet minimum vision requirements and pass a series of assessment tests, followed by behind-the-wheel training with a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist while using the bioptic telscope.

    To schedule an appointment with Smith-Gray, call the UofL Physicians Eye Specialists at 502-588-0550.



    If you know someone 85 years or older who is an outstanding example of what it means to age well, nominate him or her for the Gold Standard Award for Optimal Aging from the University of Louisville’s Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging.

    “This distinction celebrates not only lifetime achievements but also the continuing contribution of older adults,” said Christian Furman, M.D., medical director of the institute. “This award is one of the cornerstone events of Optimal Aging Month in September, a time dedicated to promoting the view that aging is an opportunity, not a disease.”

    Now in its seventh year, the award recognizes adults 85 years or older who are outstanding models of optimal aging in the physical, social, spiritual and creative aspects of life.

    “Optimal aging is the ability to flourish throughout one’s lifespan. It is not a specific level of achievement but rather a state in which a person is able to continue living life to its fullest,” said Anna Faul, Ph.D., executive director of the institute.

    Nominations are open through April 15. Multiple award winners will be announced during a luncheon Sept. 7 at the Crowne Plaza, 830 Phillips Lane. Tickets are $35 per person and the luncheon benefits the Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging and its efforts to empower older adults to flourish. Former radio personality Wayne Perkey will serve as master of ceremonies. Sponsorship and registration information is available online. For questions, call 502-852-5629 or email OptimalAging@louisville.edu.



    The UofL Women’s Basketball Cards, ranked fourth in the nation, will offer some health awareness along with the team’s matchup with the University of Virginia, Thursday, Feb. 22, at the KFC Yum! Center. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

    The Play4Kay Pink Out honors the late Kay Yow, a former North Carolina State University coach who died from breast cancer. The Kay Yow Cancer Fund is celebrating its 10th anniversary of providing funding and support for cancer research.

    The Kentucky Cancer Program at the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center will be on hand at the game with giveaways and educational materials on the importance of early screening and detection of breast cancer. Louisville Women’s Basketball also will recognize breast cancer survivors on the court during halftime.

    Fans are encouraged to wear pink, and representatives of Tom Drexler Plumbing and Remodeling will accept $5 donations for a breast cancer awareness t-shirt in the main concourse of the KFC Yum! Center. Proceeds will benefit Gilda’s Club of Louisville.

    Fans also will get to check out the Horses and Hope Mustang and Mobile Screening Unit, vehicles that are projects of Horses and Hope, an organization that brings cancer screening, detection and treatment services to workers in the equine industry in Kentucky.

    Breast cancer survivors are eligible to receive one free ticket and a discounted ticket for $3 for all guests. Call the Louisville Cardinals’ Ticket office for this offer at 502-852-5151. Other fans can receive discounted tickets for $3 by visiting My Cardinal Account and using promo code PLAY4KAY.



    Researchers at the University of Louisville have found high levels of several chemicals in the homes of local residents while examining the effects of home environmental exposures on asthma in adults 60 and older.

    Led by UofL School of Nursing professor Barbara Polivka, Ph.D., R.N., the researchers are taking in-home measurements of 85 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals that easily become gases at room temperature and are emitted from common household items, including paint, aerosol sprays and cleansers. Researchers also are measuring levels of fine particulates, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, temperature, humidity and environmental asthma triggers, including mold and secondhand smoke.

    An average of 30 chemicals have been detected in each home and indoor concentrations have been about 7.5 times that of outdoor concentrations.

    “One of the things we’re looking at is whether VOCs trigger asthma or make it worse,” Polivka said. “A number of these chemicals have been shown to impact our cardiovascular and respiratory health.”

    The researchers are accepting additional participants for the study. Louisville-area residents may qualify if they meet these requirements:

    • Have asthma
    • Are 60 or older
    • Are not a current smoker
    • Do not have other major lung disease

    Participants will receive a total of $200 in gift cards, asthma trigger control supplies and results of their home environmental assessment. To see if you qualify to participate, contact asthma@louisville.edu or 502-852-2273.



    Betty Coffman
    Betty Coffman is a Communications Coordinator focused on research and innovation at UofL. A UofL alumna and Louisville native, she served as a writer and editor for local and national publications and as an account services coordinator and copywriter for marketing and design firms prior to joining UofL’s Office of Communications and Marketing.