By Jennifer Grando Ting
Heart and vascular disease is the leading cause of disability and death of women in the United States. The majority of heart diseases in women include coronary artery disease and heart attack, heart failure, valve disease, and arrhythmia — some of which can lead to sudden death. Peripheral vascular diseases (sometimes called PAD, or peripheral artery disease) can lead to debilitating stroke or amputation. Congenital heart diseases, or cardiac conditions present at birth, are less common but equally important and require lifelong care.
Women should recognize that symptoms of heart disease may not be the same as those commonly experienced in men of the same age and medical history. In addition, medical and surgical therapy may be slightly different between men and women. This may relate to differences in drug metabolism between men and women. Additionally, the choices of therapeutic procedures or cardiac devices may be different between men and women.
Even the simplest lifestyle changes can dramatically improve outcomes in heart and vascular disease. These lifestyle changes include smoking cessation and maintenance of a healthy weight through physical activity and moderation of diet. Women should aim for a waistline that is less than 35 inches.
Women should seek evaluation for presence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes, and actively participate in their medical treatment. Women with congenital heart disease need to seek consultation from a cardiologist trained in the care of patients with congenital heart disease — even when feeling well — to prevent potential future complications.
It is important for women to not ignore their heart health and to seek evaluation. Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute has a wealth of cardiologists, surgeons and subspecialists who can fully evaluate the full range of cardiovascular conditions, both those acquired during adult life and those related to heart disease since birth.
Three women (two from the State College area and one from Reading) who have survived serious heart and vascular conditions will be featured in a half-hour TV program called “Heart to Heart,” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, on abc27 (Harrisburg). Viewers also will hear about wellness and advanced treatments from several female physicians within the Heart and Vascular Institute. Viewers are invited to phone in heart or vascular-related questions to clinicians who will speak with them one-on-one. Questions for physicians also can be e-mailed prior to the show at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit abc27.com, keyword: heart.
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Jennifer Grando Ting is an assistant professor of medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, and a cardiologist in the Program for Adult Congenital Heart Disease within Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute.