Women’s Heart Clinic

UMP - Image - Size 5 - Heart Doctor

Women talk to women. You know it. You do it at work, in the supermarket, on the sidelines at a youth soccer game; and now it’s the case at the newest clinic created by University of Minnesota Physicians. Designed to focus on the specific goals and aspects related to women and heart disease, the Women’s Heart Clinic is staffed principally by women—physician assistants or nurse practitioners and cardiologists.

Women’s Heart Clinics at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview and Fairview Southdale Hospital provide comprehensive evaluation and state-of-the-art diagnostic techniques. Through an emphasis on early diagnosis, clinical research and community education we actively demonstrate our thorough approach and dedication to women’s heart health.

At the Women’s Heart Clinic you are respected for your own needs. Our women clinicians are there to talk with you and to listen.

Initial screening
Women talking and listening to each other is a give-and-take proposition. In advance of your initial visit, you will be asked to complete a form about your health history, keep a diet log for a week and list the goals you want from the process and the clinic. A nurse practitioner will spend 45 minutes or an hour with you, reviewing your risk factors, past medical history and family history. If, during the conversation, she finds symptoms that are suggestive of heart disease or if your risk assessment falls into an intermediate or high category, you will be referred to a cardiologist.

Everyone who comes to the clinic will see a dietitian and exercise physiologist to learn more about reducing risks for heart disease. Depending on personal need, you may be referred for smoking cessation, a weight-loss program or to a depression counselor. We make recommendations that are appropriate for you.

Patient-centered, the Women’s Heart Clinic brings together information, education and screening, respecting the individual path each woman wants. If you are doing the right things, our clinic staff can help guide you to continue those healthy behaviors. If you’re on a trajectory for heart disease, we can work with you to lessen your chances for a coronary event.

At the Women’s Heart Clinic you are respected for your own needs. Our women clinicians are there to talk with you and to listen.

Women and cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease—any disease of the heart and blood vessels—is not just a man’s problem. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women, outdistancing all cancers combined. Cardiovascular disease is decreasing in men; not so for women. To put a finer point on that: 1 in 5 women today has some form of heart disease.

Men typically have their first heart attack in their early to mid-50s. For women, the timing is about a decade later: early to mid-60s.

Nearly 50 percent of women having a heart attack do not know it because the symptoms seem minor or vague. Women tend to minimize the kind-of-not-feeling-well quality that is a heart attack. Cardiologists report that women also delay treatment not just because the warning signs are non-specific, but because women often tend to everything else before they take care of themselves.

Heart attacks are generally more severe in women than in men. In the first year after a heart attack, women are more likely to die than men are. In the first six years after a heart attack, women are almost twice as likely to have a second heart attack. Some of these differences are because women tend to have heart attacks at older ages than men who have heart attacks; and because they are older, women are more likely to have other medical problems, such as diabetes.

Coronary artery disease, also called hardening of the arteries, is the major cause.

The heart is a muscle like any other muscle in the body. It needs blood flow to supply oxygen to make it work. When there isn’t enough oxygen, the muscle starts to suffer; and when there is no oxygen, the muscle starts to die. The arteries that supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood are called coronary arteries. Over time, a coronary artery can become narrowed by the buildup of cholesterol in combination with other waxy substances and calcium deposits. That is called plaque. If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form within the artery and block the flow of blood. When that happens, you have a heart attack.

Recognize and reduce your risks

  • High cholesterol is a fat your body produces and needs to protect nerves, make cell tissues and produce hormones; however, you need only a small amount of cholesterol in your blood to meet those needs. Cholesterol is also a fat present in meat and dairy products.

    In women, cholesterol levels increase after menopause. That’s the time women are most likely to suffer a first heart attack. Cholesterol levels in men tend to remain steady as they age.

    A low-fat diet, exercise and, if necessary, cholesterol-reducing medications can help you reduce cholesterol levels.
  • High blood pressure raises the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke. In women over 45, about 60 percent of Caucasians and approximately 80 percent of African Americans have high blood pressure.

    Reducing your consumption of salt (sodium), often found in “fast” and processed foods, can help lower high blood pressure. Exercise also helps lower blood pressure.
  • Smoking 4 to 5 cigarettes a day almost doubles the risk of a heart attack for a woman, and a pack a day increases the risk more than six-fold. The same level of smoking is more harmful in women than in men.

    What to do? Quit.
  • Diabetes affects more women year to year. Women with diabetes have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease earlier when compared to men. An estimated 50 to 70 percent of patients with diabetes die from cardiovascular disease.

    You can control high blood sugar levels through diet and exercise, and take medication as prescribed.
  • Obesity triples the risk of cardiovascular disease for women. A woman whose waist measurement is 35 inches or more is obese.

    The best risk reduction combines a low-fat diet and exercise for long-term success.
  • Physical inactivity adds to a higher risk of heart attack

    Brisk walking 30 minutes a day provides the same heart-healthy benefits as vigorous exercise. Sedentary women who become active late in life recoup similar benefits as those who were active lifelong.
  • Poor diet adds cholesterol and sodium, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack.

    Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, fish, legumes, poultry and lean meat supports heart health.
  • Stress, including marital stress, has been shown to increase cardiovascular disease in women. Depression is twice as likely in women as in men, and depressed patients often have higher heart rates.

    You need to find healthy ways to minimize stress in your life. Exercise is effective.

A heart attack can occur at any time. Some heart attacks strike suddenly, but many women who have had a heart attack had warning signs and symptoms hours, days or weeks in advance.


Central Scheduling: 612.672.7422

Provider Referrals: 612.672.7000

Administrative Offices: 612.884.0600

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