Health care for women by women
Cardiovascular disease has long been considered a man's disease, but the reality is just the opposite. Heart disease-especially coronary heart disease and stroke-is now the leading cause of death in women in the United States.
According to St. Luke's cardiologist Disha Mookherjee, MD, heart disease symptoms often present differently in women than in men; as a result, physicians and patients may overlook less obvious warning signs. Another influencing factor is gender roles. "Women tend to focus on the needs of others-spouses, children, aging parents-while ignoring their own health concerns," says Dr. Mookherjee.
For women by women
St. Luke's launched the Women's Heart Clinic to help women of all ages reduce their risk of heart disease and improve their overall heart health. The all-female staff includes a cardiologist, nurse practitioner, dietitian and exercise physiologist who tap into current clinical data to minimize the risk of cardiovascular disease in women. The clinic's holistic approach addresses more than just physical health needs, recognizing that social and psychological factors can also impact heart health.
"When I meet with patients who've been referred by their family physician, I'll ask them how they're doing and often they say they're doing fine," says Dr. Mookherjee. "But when I ask them more detailed questions about their lives, it becomes clear that they're compensating-taking the elevator when they used to take the stairs, leaving housework for someone-because of pain or fatigue."
During an initial visit to the Women's Heart Clinic, patients undergo a series of tests to determine their risk of heart disease. The clinic staff, in partnership with St. Luke's primary care physicians and other specialists, develops individualized care plans to fit their patients' lives. The clinic also provides referrals to dietitians, counselors, exercise physiologists, OB/GYNs and a heart disease support group. For surgical interventions, the clinic refers patients to Mary Boylan, MD, St. Luke's cardiothoracic surgeon and a longtime advocate for increasing public awareness of heart disease in women.
Understanding heart health is key to preventing problems later in life, says Dr. Mookherjee. "Heart attacks don't happen overnight, so it's never too early to start thinking about heart health. By making positive, heart healthy choices today, we have the power to influence our lives in the future."
For more information, call St. Luke's Women's Heart Clinic at 218.249.6000.