I had my first visit to a cardiologist. I had no idea what to expect. I do know that women are more likely to have a heart attack without the typical chest pain symptoms men experience.
According to the National Heart, Lung And Blood Institute, “Women are more likely than men to have coronary MVD. Many researchers think that a drop in estrogen levels during menopause combined with other heart disease risk factors causes coronary MVD. Although death rates from heart disease have dropped in the last 30 years, they haven’t dropped as much in women as in men.”
And one in four women die from heart disease.
My father and maternal grandfather both had cardiovascular issues. My mother has mitral valve prolapse. And after over 20 years of dealing with an autoimmune disease, my rheumatologist recently told me that the disease puts me at a higher risk for heart disease. A recent pre-op test saw my blood pressure abnormally high for me and the consequent surgery caused my blood pressure to go to 184/110 signaling it was time to do some preventative checking.
What to expect at the cardiologist.
I had no idea what a visit to a cardiologist. The check up started with the usual weight, height, family history and personal background questions but so many more questions.
I was hooked up to a blood pressure machine. This time my pressure was abnormally low for me: 100/50. My doctor, Dr. Eva Krista, a cardiologist at NYY Langone, suggested I pop into either RiteAid or CVS occasionally and take my blood pressure. She told me to write it down and I could email her the results through MyChart. One of the reasons I like NYULangone doctors as all your medical history is shared by the doctors in their system and MyChart tracks your visits, test results and you can email your doctor non urgent medical questions.
EKG or electrocardiogram:
This test was followed by an EKG or electrocardiogram. You’ll have to strip down and lay on a table while 10 electrodes will be placed on your body to test the electrical currents of your heart. Otherwise the test is non-invasive and just a little disconcerting if you’re a modest person.
Hands on tests:
Dr. Kosta then listened to my heart from the back and the front. She then pressed on different places in my belly. What would my belly have to do with heart issues? Well, around my belly button area it hurt when she pressed. Who knew there was an aorta that goes through there? She said the pain wasn’t anything to worry about. She listened for bruit which an odd sound, which might indicate a narrowing of an artery. She also told me I had a murmur but again nothing to worry about.
A thoracic ultrasound test:
The doctor ended the visit by saying she wanted me to have a thoracic ultrasound test. A thoracic ultrasound is going to give my doctor a look at the organs in my chest and even give a sense of how the blood is flowing to your chest organs.
The stress test:
I will be doing a stress test, which will measure my resting heart rate and the after rate after hitting the treadmill.
Ultrasound of the neck:
I am also having an ultrasound of my neck to see if there is plaque build up of any sort.
The final test was drawing blood to test my cholesterol, which had not been tested for several years. I have been a vegetarian for years and because I workout five times a week she wasn’t worried. If I had been a sedentary person she would have been concerned so get your butt in gear, ladies, and make sure you’re exercising. That said the autoimmune disease could cause issues despite my being pretty healthy. And who knows what the cholesterol tests will say? I don’t eat meat, cheese or fried foods but hereditary issues could affect my cholesterol levels.
The bottom line: Take control of your health
I think we all know heart disease and risk of a heart attack are important issues for women. Like breast cancer it’s important to understand if you are at risk and to know where you stand in advance of a problem. Women need to take control of their health and their bodies. I know I feel better for having taking the first step in going to visit a cardiologist. Hopefully I will get good news that I have nothing to worry about. And at the very least, I will have a baseline of information that might be valuable in the future.