Are you ready to support women’s heart health? The truth is that heart disease is a major killer of women, and some of the reason for that is women’s symptoms are different from men’s — and often go unrecognized until it’s too late, which is why raising awareness is so critical.
Dr. Gretchen Wells, director of the Gill Heart & Vascular Institute’s Women’s Heart Health Program, took time to answer some of our questions on women’s heart health.
Why is it important to raise awareness about women’s heart health?
People assume all heart attacks feel like a crushing in the chest, but often, and for women in particular, the symptoms of a heart attack can be quite different. More women are aware of this now than they were 20 years ago, but that’s still not good enough. So it’s important we take the opportunity to teach women what to look for and how to take the best care of your heart.
Why is it important for a place like Gill to have a specialized heart health program for women?
We’re the leaders in up-to-date diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. Each year, we have new technologies that expand our abilities to prevent and treat heart disease. We also offer leading-edge research and patients can participate in trials. All of us here come to work in the morning asking “How can I push the envelope and do better?”
What are the most common concerns you hear from patients in your program?
I just had this insight this week. Many women bring their daughters to clinic. I always thought that it was for the patient to have a support person, a ride, or maybe someone to take notes. But just yesterday, I had a patient with her daughter. After the visit, as we were closing, the patient said “I don’t want my daughter to have the heart problems that I did. I want her to know her risks and get treated early. All of this is preventable.” What great insight – and a sign of motherly love.
What led you to specialize in women’s heart health?
I didn’t start out doing this, but women gravitated towards me. Several trials evaluating women’s heart disease symptoms and prevention came out, and they raised some thought-provoking questions in my mind as to how to treat women. More importantly, I saw how these women presented differently from men. My first reaction was “we need to study this.” And then family members started having cardiac events, so it became personal.