Takeaways from Dr. Cutchins’ Chat on Heart Disease in Women

Heart Disease PreventionThank you for attending the live chat on women and heart disease on Tuesday, February 11. We had a great discussion, so thank you all who posed questions. We were thrilled with the number of people who were able to register and participate in the chat. (You can check out the transcript here). We hope this means the word is spreading that heart disease is the number one killer of women and in many cases it is preventable if we take action.

The response was so great that we had a few questions we were not able to answer during the chat so we will answer them below for your reference.

Kim – Do you have advice for how we handle ER/EC encounters and successfully get the ER/EC doc/ staff to acknowledge active Heart Disease in the pre-menopausal woman?? With newer diagnoses such as coronary endothelial dysfunction/severe coronary vasospasms for me diastolic CHF due to the preceding perhaps advice on how to navigate our local healthcare systems when we cannot get to Emory. Are these disorders and often the testing that goes along with them that is often NORMAL, are they becoming more well-versed to the medical establishments or not?

Dr. Alexis Cutchins

Dr. Cutchins: 

Kim – This is a very good question but not so easy to answer. The Emory Women’s Heart Center is working hard on trying to educate physicians in our communities about heart disease in women. We are stressing to these physicians that heart disease can exist with negative ED test results. That said, when a woman presents to the ED with symptoms the physicians are doing their best to make sure there is nothing acute or life threatening going on with the patient. If all ED tests are normal and the patient is still concerned, the patient should follow up afterwards with a cardiologist who specializes in women with heart disease. All of the diseases you have described above are real and should be taken seriously. We have multiple treatment options for patients who fall into those categories. To find out more information you can visit emoryhealthcare.org/womensheart.

Tonia – Recently diagnosed with CHF- should I be concerned about my heart murmur?

Dr. Alexis CutchinsDr. Cutchins: 

Hi Tonia. Although I can’t speak to your condition without seeing you in person, I can tell you that in general, it’s not uncommon for patients with CHF (congestive heart failure) to have heart murmurs. Typically, I recommend patients speak to their physician and ask their physician(s) to perform an echo (heart ultrasound) if it has not been imaged already.

A heart murmur could be caused from any number of factors including:

  • Increased flow across a heart valve
  • Leaking of a heart valve
  • Tightening of a heart valve.

Stay in close connection with your cardiologist to evaluate your case. If you need a cardiologist who specializes in heart disease and women, you can choose an Emory Women’s Heart Center physician by calling 404-778-7777 or visiting emoryhealthcare.org/womensheart.

Flora – I have atrial fibrillation (AF) will I get better?

Dr. Alexis CutchinsDr. Cutchins:

Hi Flora. I can’t speak to your condition without seeing you in person, but for many people, atrial fibrillation can get better. Some people have atrial fibrillation that comes and goes and some are in AF all the time. Typically, depending on a patient’s symptoms while they are in AF there are a variety of treatment options available ranging from medications to surgical procedures. How an individual feels with the diagnosis can vary so it is important to visit your cardiologist and discuss your particular case in person.

Imelda – Is taking baby aspirin now is safe?

Dr. Alexis Cutchins

Dr. Cutchins:

Like most medication, taking baby aspirin can provide side effects and is risky in some populations of people. In some cases it can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. In certain populations, such as women over the age of 65, the benefit outweighs the risk. For women over 65 who are at risk for heart disease and have well controlled blood pressure, a baby aspirin is recommended to decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack. Also women of any age with diabetes or diagnosed coronary artery disease, who do not have a contraindication, typically should take a daily baby aspirin. We always recommend to patients that they consult with their physician prior to taking any new medication to make sure it does not interact with any other medication the patient may be taking.

Imelda – Is fish oil and vitamin E is good for the heart?

Dr. Alexis CutchinsDr. Cutchins:

Fish oil is useful for women with high cholesterol or triglyceride levels. The recommendation is to take 1800mg/day of “EPA” which should be found on the bottle. Also fatty fish such as salmon, is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids that are protective. For more information on how fish oil can improve your heart & brain health please visit this blog on fish oil, posted last week on the Emory Advancing your Health Blog.

I am not as familiar with the benefits and risks associated with taking Vitamin E but it is not specifically recommended for women by the American Heart Association.

About the Emory Women’s Heart Center
Emory Women’s Heart Center is a unique program dedicated to screening, preventing and treating heart disease in women. The Center, led by nationally renowned cardiologist Gina Lundberg, MD provides comprehensive cardiac risk assessment and screenings for patients at risk for heart disease as well as full range of treatment options for women already diagnosed with heart disease care. Find out if you are at risk for heart disease by scheduling your comprehensive cardiac screening. Call 404-778-7777.

About Dr. Cutchins
Alexis Cutchins, MD is Assistant Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Cutchins completed medical school at Emory University School of Medicine before going to New York Presbyterian Hospital for her Internship and Residency in Internal Medicine. She completed an NIH-supported research fellowship in vascular biology and a clinical fellowship in cardiovascular diseases at the University of Virginia in 2012. She has a special interest in heart disease in women in addition to heart disease prevention and risk reduction in cardiology patients.

Dr. Cutchins has published several different articles on adipose tissue distribution and obesity in journals such as Circulation Research, Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology and Stroke and has a special interest in the effects of adipose tissue distribution on the heart.

Dr. Cutchins is board certified in Internal Medicine (2007) and Cardiovascular Diseases (2012). She is a member of several professional organizations including the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.
Dr. Cutchins sees patients at Emory Heart & Vascular Center at Emory University Hospital Midtown and Emory Heart & Vascular Center at Emory Saint Joseph’s.

She enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, their three daughters and their dog. She loves to cook and ride horses.

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