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DeAnn Smith: The Telling Secrets of Her Heart

DeAnn Smith IC
DeAnn Smith (seated) got rave reviews for her choice of heart doctor from his patients who happened to be hair salon clients of her sister Mary Smith (right).

For DeAnn Smith, a routine gynecologic procedure revealed more about her heart than she ever anticipated.

She was surprised when her gynecologist called to say that a required pre-procedure test showed an abnormality in the heart’s electrical activity. DeAnn would need a cardiologist’s approval to have the procedure. She saw George Broderick, MD, medical director of cardiology at Dayton Heart & Vascular Hospital at Good Samaritan, right away, and the procedure went as planned.

A few weeks later, DeAnn returned for testing to get more information about her heart. When stress test results also were abnormal, Dr. Broderick told the 43-year-old Clayton resident she might have a blockage in one or more of her heart’s arteries.

“That’s when I started panicking,” she says. “My mom died of a heart attack at 67. With my history, Dr. Broderick and I explored three options and decided on heart catheterization so he could see if I had any blockages.”

Luckily for DeAnn, the test showed clear arteries. Today her high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both risk factors for heart disease, are managed with medication.

DeAnn’s story illustrates that the symptoms of heart disease—and even heart attack—may vary between women and men.

Deciphering the Differences

“Women often present with heart disease later in life than men. When you’re older and have multiple diseases, it can be harder to sort out what’s causing symptoms such as shortness of breath, back pain, abdominal pain, passing out, severe sweating or a vague ill feeling,” Dr. Broderick says. “If you’re having any of these symptoms, get them checked to know if you’re having a heart attack.”

Whatever a woman’s heart might need, the dedicated team at the Dayton Heart & Vascular Hospital at Good Samaritan has experts to help. With the best local heart specialists and the most advanced technology available, the hospital offers everything from screening tests to open heart surgery. “We look at the whole patient and what each one needs, ensuring that every woman—and man—benefits from the latest advances,” Dr. Broderick says.

A falsely positive stress test like DeAnn’s is not unusual in women, Dr. Broderick says. “Once we determine no arteries are blocked, we treat a woman’s risk factors. Blockages can take years to develop. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, a family history of premature coronary artery disease and obesity around the waist all can contribute to heart disease.”

Know Your Risks

Cath Lad Dr. Broderick
In the Cath Lab, Dr. George Broderick (right) looks for blockages in the arteries that may be restricting blood flow to the heart.

He emphasizes that heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women, killing eight times more women than breast cancer does, according to the National Institutes of Health. See your primary care physician to thoroughly assess your risk factors, he advises. Exercise and other healthy choices may lower your risks but not remove them, so be sure to discuss a management plan with your doctor.

“Women at intermediate risk may benefit from a stress test and other routine heart tests. In addition, the HeartSaver CT scan can be valuable in detecting heart disease before a woman has any symptoms,” Dr. Broderick says. Offered by Good Samaritan, this painless seven-minute test takes a series of pictures to measure how much the arteries may have hardened, often a predictor of future heart attack.

DeAnn Smith is grateful that she now knows some of the secrets of her heart. “It was so awesome to think they could look into my heart. Just six hours after I arrived for the test, I was done and going home. If you think you might have a heart problem, it’s definitely worth it to find out for sure.”

Heart Attack Warning Signs

For Men and Women

  • Discomfort in the center ofthe chest
  • Discomfort elsewhere in theupper body (arms, back, neck,jaw, or stomach)
  • Shortness of breath – withor without chest discomfort
  • Lightheadedness
  • Cold sweats or clammy skin
  • Fainting
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

For Women

  • Women’s warning signs candiffer from men’s and be farmore subtle:
  • Unexplained fatigue, weakness,or dizziness
  • Feeling breathless with dailyactivities, often without pain ordiscomfort of any kind
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Feelings of anxiety or impendingdoom
  • Upper abdominal pressureor discomfort resemblingindigestion
  • Flu-like symptoms: nausea,clamminess, or cold sweats

For more information about assessing heart health with the Heart Saver CT, call (937) 734-8200 or visit us online.

<< Samaritan HealthTalk Fall 2010