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All Geisinger locations are open and providing patient care. Please arrive as scheduled for your appointment unless you hear from a member of your care team. We appreciate your patience if you experience any delays during your visit.

Women’s heart health

From routine procedures to advanced treatments, our women’s heart health specialists are here to provide the specialized care your heart needs.

If you’re a woman, you have unique heart care needs. You may experience heart symptoms differently or develop them later than men do — up to 10 years later. Our team of women’s heart health specialists is here to give you the special care your heart needs, so you can live your healthiest life.

What does the heart do?

Your heart is a hard-working muscle, responsible for pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. It’s divided into four chambers separated by valves that move blood in and out of the heart. The right chambers supply blood to the body, and the left chambers supply blood to the lungs.

Risk factors for developing a heart condition

As a woman, there are certain behaviors, genetics and risk factors that can increase your chances of developing a heart condition. These include:

  • High blood pressure: One-third of American adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Hypertension increases the risk of not only developing a heart condition but stroke, heart disease and kidney failure.
  • High cholesterol: Having high cholesterol levels, especially LDL or “bad” cholesterol, increases your risk for developing a heart condition. Our team of lipid specialists will work with you to help keep your cholesterol at healthy levels.
  • Physical inactivity: Living a sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for developing heart disease or another heart condition. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise five days a week can greatly reduce your risk.
  • Diabetes: Those with Type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop heart failure and other heart conditions than those who do not have the condition.
  • Being overweight: People who have excess body fat — especially around the waist — are more likely to develop heart disease, even if they have no other risk factors.
  • Family history: If you have a family member who’s been diagnosed with heart disease prematurely (before age 65 for women), you’re at a greater risk for developing a heart condition.
  • Age: The risk of developing a heart condition increases with age.
  • Complications of pregnancy: If you’ve experienced pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), you’re at a greater risk for developing heart disease and other heart conditions.
  • Menopause: During menopause, estrogen levels begin to decrease. This can lead to an estrogen deficiency, which may increase your risk of developing a heart condition.
  • Other risk factors: Other factors that can increase the risk of developing a heart condition include having sleep apnea, experiencing prolonged stress, using certain types of contraceptives, receiving certain types of cancer treatment and smoking.

How are heart conditions diagnosed?

Our team of women’s heart specialists is experienced in diagnosing and treating a variety of conditions affecting the heart. We offer screening tests that use the most advanced technology to better detect women’s heart conditions, including:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) – This non-invasive test uses small sensors attached to your chest and arms to record your heart’s electrical activity.
  • Blood tests – These tests can also rule out any issues with your thyroid, liver or kidneys.
  • Chest X-ray – This allows your doctor to see the condition of your lungs and heart, and potentially rule out other causes of your symptoms.
  • Echocardiogram – A wand-like device is placed on your chest and uses sound waves to create a video of your heart working.
  • Stress test – This test involves monitoring your heart while you exercise.
  • Artery calcification test – During this specialized CT scan, your doctor measures the amount of calcium in your heart’s walls. This measurement is used to determine your risk of developing coronary artery disease.
  • Basic vascular screening – This exam uses a series of tests to check the health of your blood vessels, including small blood vessels.
Lifestyle changes

Which may include:
  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercise
  • Change in diet
  • Limiting use of alcohol
  • Losing weight
  • Reducing stress
  • Emotional support

Your doctor may recommend prescription medication to help manage your symptoms and reduce your risk of complications.
Heart surgery

Our heart surgeons use the latest techniques to treat heart conditions, including minimally invasive surgery, to offer you the best outcomes and path for healing. Our surgeons are highly trained and board certified, which means they’ve passed an optional national exam to demonstrate their medical expertise. Many of our surgeons are also fellowship trained, holding additional training in specific types of cardiac surgery. We routinely perform complex procedures that are often unavailable elsewhere in the area.
Heart transplant

During a heart transplant, a weak or failing heart is replaced with a healthier donor heart.

Left ventricular assist devices, or LVADs, can act as a temporary treatment while you wait for a heart transplant. An LVAD is used to treat advanced heart failure by taking some of the burden off your heart so it can pump more oxygen-rich blood to your body. An LVAD can also help your heart function properly if you aren’t a good candidate for a transplant.
Implanted defibrillator

If your heartbeat is too fast or too slow, your doctor may suggest an implantable defibrillator. This device delivers a small electric shock to slow down your heart if it starts to beat erratically. An irregular heartbeat can lead to heart failure if left untreated.
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