Barbara Jo Dunn, RN, conducts up to 15 cardiac stress tests every day at UPMC Passavant’s Cardiac Diagnostic Testing Center. She used to walk from her car in the parking lot at the top of the hill to the hospital before and after work. One day, however, she noticed that walking at a fast pace left her short of breath.
“Less and less activity was making me short of breath and I could feel tightness in my chest intermittently. Now, I have to ride the shuttle from the hospital to the parking lot up the hill,” says Barbara Jo, 57, of Sarver, Pa. “I’ve switched things up so it’s not as hard for me.”
These symptoms, combined with feeling tired and her hard-to-control diabetes, had Barbara Jo concerned about her health. She wondered if shortness of breath and other symptoms could be due to an underlying heart condition. In February 2021, she heard about the Magee-Womens Heart Program at UPMC Passavant. Barbara Jo called immediately to schedule a cardiovascular risk assessment.
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Focusing on Women’s Heart Health
The Magee-Womens Heart Program at UPMC Passavant is a collaboration between UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital and the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. The program, which launched in February 2021, provides complete care for women who have heart disease or are at risk for it.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Women with diabetes are three to four times more likely to develop heart disease than women without diabetes.
The program is led by Lydia Davis, MD, and Venmathi Indramohan, MD, cardiology experts at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute (HVI). Dr. Davis also serves as medical director of the Cardiac Stress Test Lab and Nuclear Cardiac Imaging at UPMC Passavant and Outpatient Echocardiography at UPMC. Residents in the northern suburbs of Allegheny, Butler, and Beaver counties now have convenient access to HVI’s world-class care at UPMC Passavant–Cranberry.
The Magee-Womens Heart Program at UPMC Passavant services include:
- Cardiac risk assessment related to hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
- Collaborative care with other cardiac specialists.
- Optimal treatment of chronic conditions that lead to heart disease in women.
- Sex-specific risk assessment for heart disease.
- Thoughtful use of cardiac testing, including stress tests, ultrasounds, CT scans, and catheterizations.
A Personalized Approach to Care
Barbara Jo has worked closely with Dr. Davis since 2013. Concerned about her diabetes, Dr. Davis cautioned Barbara Jo to keep it under control.
“Diabetes is a huge cardiac risk factor for women because your vascular system is compromised,” says Barbara Jo. “Typically, women with this type of diabetes get coronary microvascular disease, a small vessel disease that can cause chest pain.”
Dr. Davis is a cardiologist who specializes in women’s health. She determined that Barbara Jo had risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common form of heart disease.
“She impressed me right away. Dr. Davis is very thorough and patient-oriented,” says Barbara Jo. “She went through my history, trying to figure out if something was wrong.”
Dr. Davis recommended Barbara Jo have a stress cardiac MRI, a new assessment that’s similar to a cardiac stress test at UPMC Presbyterian. The test would provide photos of Barbara Jo’s heart.
“The results revealed no significant blockages in my coronary arteries, but I learned I do have diabetes-related microvascular disease,” says Barbara Jo. She met again with Dr. Davis to talk about ways to better manage her lifestyle, risk factors, and medicines.
“Overall, my prognosis is excellent. What a relief!” she exclaims.
Compared to men, women have a unique biology and risk factors for heart disease. Unfortunately, heart disease is often misdiagnosed and undertreated in women.
“Women can present with different cardiovascular symptoms and have different lifestyle factors compared to men,” says Dr. Davis. “For this reason, having access to the Magee-Womens Heart Program at UPMC Passavant means we can bring tailored diagnostics and treatments specific to women’s heart health to the community.”
Schedule an appointment online with the Magee-Womens Heart Program at UPMC Passavant or call 412-748-6484.
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The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.
For more than a century, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital has provided high-quality medical care to women at all stages of life. UPMC Magee is long renowned for its services to women and babies, but also offers a wide range of care to men as well. Nearly 10,000 babies are born each year at Magee, and the hospital’s NICU is one of the largest in the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, and the Magee-Womens Research Institute is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology.