Eric Van De Graaff, M.D.

They say all good things must come to an end. Such wisdom probably counts for mediocre things, too. This represents my final submission to the Alegent Cardiology Blog and I’d like to occupy some electrons on your computer screen to thank all the people who’ve helped me with my writing along the way. My gratitude goes out to Alegent Health for allowing me to have a voice for my opinions.  It’s not everywhere you’d find a large organization that provides blanket permission for an individual to spout off week after week.  I thank, in particular, Josh Di Lorenzo, Matthew McCahill and Jen Homan for their vigilant assistance in keeping up the blog for these past three and a half years. … Continue reading

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Doctors Behaving Badly

Eric Van De Graaff, M.D.

As odd as this might sound, my mother was upset when I declared my intention to go to medical school. It wasn’t the mountain of debt I was sure to incur since I’d already figured out how to get Uncle Sam to pick up the bill (a small deal that put me in a military uniform for a decade).  It wasn’t the fact that medical school would delay the litter of bouncing grandbabies she wanted to fawn over.  And it certainly wasn’t because she’d miss me—she’d already seen too much of me and my dirty laundry on weekends during college. No, my mother was legitimately disappointed in me for choosing to enter the medical profession simply because she had a … Continue reading

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Running Races

Eric Van De Graaff, M.D.

This summer marks the 25th straight year that I’ve been running on a regular basis.  Over the last quarter of a century I’ve done so many five- and 10-kilometer races that I’ve lost count.  I’ve competed in 10-milers, half-marathons, 3-k and 25-k runs and every “k” in between, and enough marathons that my knees are starting to hold a grudge. Not that I win any of these, mind you.  I’ve always been a fairly mediocre runner—generally placing in the top third of any race but never talented enough to post a time that would turn anyone’s head.  While I haven’t obtained blistering speed from my 25 years of running, I have gained wisdom. One thing I love about doing road … Continue reading

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Smoking in the Military

Eric Van De Graaff, M.D.

The military has a long tradition of mixing warfare and tobacco.  Years ago the army included a pack of smokes in every C-ration distributed to the troops; as a result it was more common for soldiers to take up smoking than to remain abstinent.  The tobacco industry insured itself a whole generation of addicted consumers by volunteering their product to help the war effort.  Years later, of course, we’ve inherited this tradition in the form of lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease among our veterans. When I was a young doctor in the air force one of my jobs was to oversee the base’s Put Prevention Into Practice Program, an anemic effort to bring down the cost of military medical … Continue reading

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Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Your Heart

Eric Van De Graaff, M.D.

I recently asked a patient about his compliance with therapy for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and got an odd response.  “What does it matter to you if I use my CPAP?”  The CPAP to which he referred is the mask that OSA sufferers wear at night to improve their oxygen levels during sleep. On one level I can understand his question.  This is a sleeping problem, after all—not exactly the realm of cardiology.  Why should I care if he starts his day refreshed or drags himself out of bed feeling hung over?  Other patients have similarly expressed confusion (albeit less bluntly) about the relationship between OSA and heart function.  Before I clarify this connection, let me walk you through the … Continue reading

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