February 8, 2020

Fighting the Number One Cause of Women’s Death in the United States

Heather Jackson, Loma Linda University Health, and Adventist Review

Loma Linda University Health’s International Heart Institute has launched a Women’s Heart Health Clinic to help provide specialized cardiac care for women, many of whom are misdiagnosed for cardiovascular condition.

At the new institute in Loma Linda, California, United States, which started in 2019, women heart experts are able to diagnose and treat cardiovascular conditions seen in women, according to the institution’s leaders. “Patients are  empowered through guided talks with physicians about detecting heart issues and receive resources that teach them how to advocate for themselves,” they said.

The clinic’s founder and director, Purvi Parwani, said women are often ignored when presenting with heart attack symptoms in emergency rooms.

“This clinic provides specialized care to a population that is often ignored even when presenting with classic chest pain,” Parwani said. “The clinic also aims to equip women with the diagnosis, treatment, and information regarding their complex cardiac conditions.”

Heart disease is the number-one killer for women in the United States every year, according to the American Heart Association. Yet, in recent years, only 56 percent of women were aware of this statistic, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In its first year of operation, the Women’s Heart Health Clinic has already helped saved the lives of many women in suburban Los Angeles, like that of Lisa Cummings, for example, an active mother who has returned to skiing. For more than nine years, Cummings dealt with severe chest pressure that gave her shortness of breath and made it hard to walk more than 10 feet. Although she would rush to the emergency room at the immediate onset of her symptoms, she was often turned away and dismissed as having a panic attack. However, Cummings’s husband told her not to give up and keep looking for another opinion. That search led her to the International Heart Institute.

When she met Parwani, Cummings said she finally felt both seen and heard. Parwani’s expertise in diagnosing women with heart conditions enabled her to diagnose Cummings with cardiovascular spasms that were brought on by a condition called vasospastic angina. Cummings was placed on the correct medication and was given what she felt like was a second chance at life.

“I would always feel like I was making a mountain out of a molehill because I was always ignored,” Cummings recalled. “It was not until I met Doctor Parwani that I knew I was going to be OK. She listened to everything I said and ran every test I could think of to make sure there were no underlying conditions missed. She gave me hope again.”

Now that Cummings is back with her family, she shares her story to inspire women never to give up and always seek a second opinion.

The original version of this story was posted on the Loma Linda University Health news site.