While studies show that women are far less likely than men to be tested or treated for heart disease, the UM Heart Center's team of female cardiologists gives women reason to take heart
When it comes to disease, men and women are not necessarily created equally. Though heart disease is the leading killer of both sexes, each year a significantly larger number of women die from it. And to make matters worse, studies suggest that women are far less likely than men to be tested or treated for heart disease.
At the University of Maryland Heart Center, women can take heart thanks to a team of female cardiologists whose areas of expertise positively impact women.
“Pulmonary hypertension is a condition which affects women twice as often as men,” says Myung H. Park, M.D., director of the pulmonary vascular diseases program at the Heart Center and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Like its name suggests, pulmonary hypertension is a type of high blood pressure that impacts the arteries of the lungs and puts pressure on the right side of the heart. If not treated, the heart muscle weakens due to an increased burden from the high pressures, ultimately leading to heart failure.
“Unfortunately the diagnosis of pulmonary hypertension is often delayed because of the nonspecific nature of the symptoms, such as shortness of breath with minimal exertion, fatigue, dizzy spells and fainting,” says Dr. Park. At the University of Maryland, patients undergo a thorough and careful evaluation to obtain accurate diagnosis and to consider all the treatment options.
Dr. Park states, “The key is to be aware what pulmonary hypertension is and to perform an ultrasound of the heart as a screening test if it is suspected. We have the best chance for positive outcomes when the disease is detected early.” New treatments are now available which have significantly helped patients to feel better and to improve their outcome.
Women rarely think of themselves as heart patients, but the reality is women are just as likely as men to be affected by primary diseases of the heart muscle.
This condition, called cardiomyopathy, accounts for up to 15% of all heart failure. Certain types of cardiomyopathy are specific to women, including a weakening of the heart that occasionally occurs with pregnancy and childbirth.
In extreme cases of heart failure, women may benefit from artificial hearts or heart transplants. Women deserve special consideration when they are ill enough to need a heart transplant because they are more likely to have antibodies that may cause rejection.
A mechanical assist device, more commonly known as a heart pump, is another treatment option for advanced heart failure. Until recently, the majority of heart pumps have been used in men simply because of the sizes of these pumps.
“Cutting-edge technology has made these pumps considerably smaller. This positively impacts women because of their smaller body sizes. We have been pioneers in advancing this field and are proud to be able to offer this therapy to smaller women who in the past would have been excluded,” says cardiologist Erika Feller, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.