During February, Heart Health Month, Cardiologist Mary Gordon, D.O., plans to get the word out about a silent killer of women.
“For every one woman who dies from breast cancer, six die from cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Gordon, Presence Medical Group (PMG). “Heart disease is the number one killer for both men and women, but we need to raise awareness in women for a number of reasons.”
Dr. Gordon has practiced cardiology for more than 10 years. She is part of a team at Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center (PSJMC) that treats the full range of heart conditions, from prevention through cardiac rehab. PSJMC’s nationally-recognized specialists have performed many of the area’s “firsts” from the first open heart surgery to the most recent Watchman procedure, in which a small device is implanted non-invasively to treat atrial fibrillation (the most common form of irregular heart rhythm).
But Dr. Gordon’s work to raise heart disease awareness for women doesn’t end with each hospital shift. She has overcome her own personal health challenges and regularly engages the community in heart health discussions.
“I look for every opportunity to discuss heart health — talking with people I meet, presenting at events, on the radio — wherever I can get the word out,” said Dr. Gordon. “People are shocked when they learn about the overwhelming mortality rate for heart disease, but they shouldn’t be surprised.”
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in United States — more than all forms of cancer combined — and the number one killer of women. More than 43 million women are affected by cardiovascular disease including: coronary disease, stroke, heart failure and rhythm disorders of the heart. Heart attacks occur when the artery becomes blocked, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart, which can cause the death of the heart muscle.
There are non-modifiable risk factors for heart disease such as age and genetics, while other factors include but are not limited to: high cholesterol, inactivity, obesity, hypertension, diabetes and tobacco use. Women experience plaque erosion two times more often than men and are 15 percent more likely to have hypertension, but are less likely to be treated.
“Approximately 90 percent of adult women have more than one risk factor, but only one in five women believe that this is their greatest health threat,” said Dr. Gordon. “Making matters worse, gynecologists can have difficulty correctly identifying heart risk factors in women. Women also have a tendency to ignore symptoms and are more likely to die because they seek care much later.”
Many of the symptoms are common to both sexes such as chest pain or pressure, pain radiating to neck, shoulders, back, arms and jaw, and heart palpitations. However, women experience milder symptoms and are less likely to have chest pain. Additionally, the most common symptom is unusual fatigue, which is easily reasoned away by active women.
“Women should be on the lookout for warning signs and actively take care of their heart health,” said Dr. Gordon. “Regular checkups and behavioral modification for significant risk factors such as smoking and obesity are critical.”
Dr. Gordon will be hosting several free heart discussions in February. Interested individuals are welcome to register by calling 877-737- 4636. Presence Health is committed to cardiovascular health with additional focus on women during Heart Health Month. Visit www.presencehealth.org/foryourheart to take a free women’s heart risk assessment and enter a sweepstakes to win a Fitbit Charge.
Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center (PSJMC) is a regional referral center recognized for overall Clinical Excellence. Recently named to the “Top Hospitals” in Chicagoland area by Chicago magazine, PSJMC serves Will and surrounding counties, including the southwest Chicago suburbs. Located in Joliet, PSJMC offers private patient rooms and world-class health care. Designated as a Primary Stroke Center, Presence Neuroscience Institute also provides 24/7 neurosurgeons, neurologists and neuroendovascular interventionalists. Recognized nationally for advanced cardiac care including a world-class open heart program, PSJMC also offers family-centered obstetrics, and a Level II Trauma Center.
About Presence Health
Created in November 2011, Presence Health is the largest Catholic health system based in Illinois, with over 150 sites of care, including 12 hospitals, 20,000 employees, 4,000 medical professionals and a revenue base of $2.6 billion.