Q&A: Women’s heart care

with cardiologist Dr. Swarna Bheemreddy

Swarna R. Bheemreddy, MD, internal medicine, was drawn to the physiology of heart disease in medical school and is devoted to keeping her patients’ hearts healthy at Nazareth Hospital.

Swarna BheemreddyQ. How do you counsel female patients about cardiac health?

Many women still believe that heart attacks only happen to men. But heart attack is the number-one killer of women, even over breast or other cancers. Women need to understand their risk factors and control them with lifestyle modifications like eating right, controlling weight, getting exercise and quitting smoking.

Q. How is heart disease different in women and men?

Women’s hearts are smaller and their blood vessels are narrower, so even though men and women have the same risk factors, the impact of those risk factors are different. For instance, diabetes increases a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease four-fold, while only doubling a man’s risk. And many women who have a heart attack do not even know it because their symptoms are often more subtle.

Q. What do women need to know about heart health?

That heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. More women than men die of heart disease each year and women are more likely to die of their first heart attack than men. Women need to learn the symptoms of heart attack and they need to seek emergency care immediately.

Q. How did you become interested in cardiovascular disease?

In medical school, I found cardiology fascinating. I think it is the most evidence-based specialty, which gives you added confidence when treating patients or helping them make decisions on their care.

Dr. Swarna Bheemreddy speaks three languages in addition to English: Hindi, Russian and Telugu, and finds many opportunities to practice her Russian with Nazareth patients.