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Advocating for the Hearts of Women

By Tracy Stevens, MD, Medical Director and Marcia McCoy, RN, MSN, Director
Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center and Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute

Advocating for the Hearts of WomenIn 2014, Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center celebrated 20 years of advocating for women’s heart health. The Center was founded in 1994 and is recognized as the first women’s heart center of its kind in the United States. On May 21, 2010, in front of invited guests inside Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center, former First Lady Laura Bush addressed us and said, “thank you for leading the way.” It is the culture at Saint Luke’s to provide leadership, innovation and quality heart care while embracing ground-breaking concepts and technology. Women’s heart health is no differen.

Empowering Women to be Proactive
As a pioneer, we are honored to have spearheaded this ground breaking initiative to the distinguished level it is today. The Center strives to empower women to be proactive and to take ownership of their risk factors through education and risk factor awareness. Community and workplace education, along with a family/friend focused approach to promote heart healthier families, have become an encompassing strategy, as women remain the primary health care decision makers in their family domain.

Pioneers and Partners in Women’s
Heart Health
Today, nationally recognized for its commitment to women’s heart health, the center is the recipient of the Inaugural Woman’s Day Red Dress Award; is a Founding Partner of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Heart Truth Campaign and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. We are proud to be a supportive partner and National Spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s ‘Go Red for Women’ campaign, and have been recognized as pioneers in women’s heart health at two White House receptions.

Controlling High Blood Pressure Can Make a Life Saving Difference
While cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in both men and women, controlling a single risk factor can make a life saving difference. High blood pressure (hypertension) profoundly impacts one’s personal risk for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, blindness and need for dialysis. National guidelines define hypertension generally as a blood pressure consistently greater than 140/90 mmHg.

While hypertension is not unique to women, women who experience high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to develop hypertension later in life. As hormone levels change with the onset of menopause and beyond, women’s arteries lose elasticity and become stiff, increasing the force of blood against the walls of the arteries/blood vessels with each heart beat, resulting in elevated high blood pressure.

Make a personal commitment to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis. Purchase a fully automatic blood pressure machine for your home. Maintain a diary of your results to include blood pressure, pulse, date and time. Share these results with your health care provider.

Powerful strategies to lower blood pressure include:
1) Commit to a consistent exercise program. If you feel carving out time for exercise is challenging, focus on 10,000 steps in a day.

2) Be cautious of anti-inflammatory medications as these can elevate blood pressure.

3) Regular consumption of alcohol may elevate blood pressure.

4) Treat sleep apnea as this may contribute to persistent high blood pressure.

5) Eat healthy and control your sodium/salt intake.

6) Maintain ideal body weight; strive for a waist circumference (measuring just above your belly button) to be less than half your height in inches.

7) Identify strategies to counteract stress.

If your blood pressure diary consistently shows >140/90 mmHg readings, discuss the need for blood pressure lowering medications with your health care provider. There are many categories of these medications and some of the most effective ones are now generic, affordable and well tolerated. Take the medication as instructed; refill the medication as needed before it runs out; and it is imperative to document that it is successfully getting you to your goal. It is not uncommon to require more than one medication.

Take personal ownership of your blood pressure. If you don’t, who will? To learn more about the Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center, call 816-932-5784.

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