Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, but it is often overlooked. Dr. Bukola Olubi, a cardiologist with Piedmont Heart Institute, hopes to change that as Piedmont Healthcare’s women’s heart program adds new services and programs this spring. In addition to raising awareness with screenings for women, the program hopes to improve outcomes for those with heart conditions and issues by providing support services through diagnosis and treatment.
“Some conditions are far enough along to require medical or surgical intervention, but this program’s mission is to empower women to lead healthier, longer lives by offering a supportive environment and providing access to holistic cardiovascular care,” Dr. Olubi said.
The women’s heart program, launched in 2013, is adding wellness education this year. The program will bring in many Piedmont specialists with expertise in areas that affect heart health. They will lead classes focusing on nutrition, fitness, stress reduction and more. The goal of this program, which is very similar to the services and programs offered by Thomas F. Chapman Family Cancer Wellness, hopes to fill gaps in a lack of access to information and support. These classes will start at Piedmont Fayette this spring, thanks in large part to a generous donation from Fayette County resident Vicki Turner.
Women who were having heart issues were surveyed about what their needs were and many suggested that they needed better access to information and navigating their way through the information that they had received. For instance, a doctor might tell them that they needed to lose weight, but they did not know how to start. The women’s heart program will not only connect women to specialists who can help them with all of the information that they are receiving, but it will also connect them with other women who are going through the same situation. This is especially key for younger patients who may be struggling with their diagnosis and seeking connections with women just like them.
“Ninety percent of women have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. That means that this affects most women,” said Dr. Bukola Olubi. “And yet, many people don’t realize the seriousness of this disease and that one in three women will die due to heart-related issues. Women need to know the risk factors, they need to know the preventive measures to take and they need to know that there are people out there who are willing to help.”
Genetics is a major risk factor for heart disease, but new research shows that adverse events in pregnancy, estrogen deficiency and premature menopause, among other things, heighten the likelihood of heart disease as well. Other risk factors are poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking cigarettes and heavy alcohol use. Dr. Bukola Olubi believes that educating women about lifestyle changes and raising awareness can make a tremendous impact.
“Eighty percent of heart and stroke events can be prevented with lifestyle changes. That’s why it is important to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, most, if not all, days, avoid heavy alcohol use, stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke exposure,” said Dr. Bukola Olubi. “It’s also important to control your blood sugar if you are diabetic and to control your blood pressure with a low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium diet.”
Women also need to know the symptoms of a cardiac event and know that they are different than the symptoms that men experience. For instance, women may not experience chest pain when they are having a heart attack, but will experience nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath and pain in their jaw, neck, shoulder or arm. It is because these symptoms are different than what is typically mentioned when discussing heart attacks that women often ignore them. This has lead to fewer women surviving their first heart attack.
Starting this spring, women will be able to attend different programs focused on their long-term heart health and wellness at Piedmont Fayette Hospital. In addition to cooking demonstrations and yoga and mindfulness classes aimed at reducing stress, the women’s heart program will also have classes and programs in the community such as grocery store tours for women interested in adopting a heart healthy diet, or exercise classes with doctors that will provide educational moments while getting people moving.
“Women have a tendency to take care of others first. This program’s aim is to take care of women first and to provide them with the knowledge and support they need so that they can stay healthier for all life has to offer,” said Dr. Bukola Olubi.
For more information on cardiovascular services at Piedmont Fayette, visit piedmont.org/heart.