Everyone knows that women are different from men in all sorts of ways. That holds true for the heart as well.
That’s why Scripps Health has launched the Scripps Women’s Heart Center, offering expert cardiology care for women by women.
The center, led by four female cardiologists, is located at the John R. Anderson V Medical Pavilion on the Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla campus.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing more than 280,000 women in 2013, according to the latest figures from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet only 54 percent of women are aware of that fact.
That’s partly because some heart attack symptoms experienced by women – shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain -- can differ from those experienced by men and can be easily mistaken for other ailments.
For many women, heart disease is a silent threat that goes undiagnosed until symptoms of a sudden heart attack, heart failure or stroke surface.
Physiology also means women are affected differently by heart disease. Women have faster heart rates than men and their hearts are smaller, making them more vulnerable to damage. Research has found that hormones such as estrogen play a role in protecting women from heart disease, and their risk for heart problems could increase after menopause.
Women caring for women
At the new Scripps Women’s Heart Center, four cardiologists – Poulina Uddin, MD; Christina Adams, MD; Elizabeth Kaback, MD; and Namee Kim, MD – are focused on empowering their patients to take care of their hearts through education, healthy lifestyles and expert medical care when needed.
“As female physicians, we are acutely aware of the unique needs that women have when it comes to heart care,” said Dr. Uddin, who is board certified in cardiology and integrative holistic medicine. “My colleagues and I know how factors such as estrogen imbalances, pregnancy, autoimmune conditions and migraine headaches can greatly affect women’s hearts.”
As part of Scripps Health, the center is associated with the region’s largest heart care system and the only one recognized for more than a decade by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in the country.
“Women often tend to care for our loved ones before we care for ourselves, but we can’t help others if we’re not healthy,” said Dr. Adams, who also is board-certified in cardiology. “Research shows that women with heart disease are less likely than men to be accurately diagnosed and treated. Our new center is focused on erasing those differences.”
Heart attacks hit Poway woman at her prime
Bertha Verde is one Scripps patient who knows the value of heart care designed to meet her unique needs. The 53-year-old Poway woman had her first heart attack a year and a half ago just after she had wrapped up a boot camp exercise program.
Like many women, she experienced no advance symptoms. Once at the emergency room, doctors found complete blockage of her left anterior descending artery, which supplies blood to more than half of the heart muscles. Two stents were implanted to open the artery.
Further testing determined Verde suffered from spontaneous coronary artery dissection, an uncommon condition that happens when tears form in a heart blood vessel and block blood flow. The condition typically affects healthy women in their 40s and 50s who haven’t experienced signs of heart disease.
“I am pretty fit, so all of this came as a complete surprise to me,” she said. “At Scripps, I know that I am getting the best care possible from physicians who fully understands the context of my heart conditions.”
Free Women’s Heart Health Expo
All four of the center’s cardiologists will be featured at Women’s Heart Health Expo 2017, a free event from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Schaetzel Center at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.
The event will include physician and patient presentations, exhibit booths with information about women’s health programs and services, a healthy continental breakfast, and a chance to meet the doctors. Due to limited seating attendees are encouraged to register by Feb. 3 by calling 1-800-SCRIPPS (727-4777) or visit scripps.org/women2017.
Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.