Dr. Chetan Hampole is a board-certified cardiologist at Fisher-Titus Medical Center. His extensive background in cardiology has enabled him to help many women experiencing heart conditions, most recently through the Cleveland Clinic. We asked Dr. Hampole to discuss the differences between men and women with heart disease, what they should avoid and if simply being a woman puts them at higher risk.
What are the major differences you see between men and women with heart disease?
One major difference men and women have with heart disease is that the conversation between the patient and the healthcare provider typically occurs earlier in men as compared to women. Another common difference between men and women is the way they present with symptoms. When women present with chest pain, whether sharp or dull, when accompanied by symptoms like nausea, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, even passing out, it can certainly be a warning sign.
What symptoms would women experience that would be different than men?
The symptoms that could be different would be chest pain. That's the most common one. Chest pain in women can often be sharp, it can radiate into the abdomen, as opposed to men where the chest pain is typically dull, crushing, even described as an elephant sitting on their chest.
Can you indicate some risk factors that women should be aware of?
There are several risk factors that women should be concerned with. Foremost is tobacco use, diabetes is a major one nowadays, hypertension, high cholesterol, diets that are high in fat, saturated fat, fast foods and fried foods.
They say with smoking, your longevity increases once you quit. Can this also be the case with heart issues, that if you change your diet and exercise more, you will add more years to your life?
Yes. If people can modify their risk factors, they can certainly reduce their risk of developing cardiac disease. If they have high blood pressure, addressing their blood pressure is key. This is also true when it comes to managing their weight if they have been told by a doctor they are overweight for their body size and age. They can optimize their diet with less fried foods, less salt, less cholesterol and add more fresh fruit, more vegetables. Other risk factors they can regulate include getting in control of their high cholesterol, and avoiding tobacco.
Do you recommend a complete diet change or can some elements be gradually implemented to make that change easier?
I think a complete diet change is, practically speaking, difficult to do. For some folks, if there's a lot of room for improvement, it would take a lot of change immediately to extract the optimal benefit. Practically speaking, I think it's easier to introduce small changes and to do them over time. The ones I typically recommend in the beginning are to eliminate fried and fast food. Once folks are able to achieve that, and cutting out salt, that's really a good foundation to build upon. I think it's more of a gradual process, to try to really optimize the diet.
Does menopause or estrogen levels have an impact?
Menopause and estrogen do have an impact in the development of cardiovascular disease in women. As women age and enter menopause and thereafter, the amount of estrogen decreases. Estrogen is known to be cardioprotective, and so as women enter menopause, they're more predisposed to developing cardiovascular disease.
Are there any myths about women and heart disease you can dispel?
Sure, there are a few myths. The first is that heart disease is a man's disease. This is a myth. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in women. One out of every 3 women will die because of cardiovascular disease, as opposed to cancer, where one out of 32 women will die from breast cancer. The myth that women have to worry more about cancer than cardiovascular disease is just not true. Another myth is that women who are young and healthy may not have to worry about cardiovascular disease. That also is simply not true. It's known that, as early as pre-teen years, people start to develop what are called fatty streaks, which are the very beginning of cholesterol plaques being deposited into the arteries, specifically the heart arteries. Even though folks may be—particularly women—young and healthy, it does not preclude them from developing cardiovascular disease in the future.
What can a patient expect when they meet with you for an appointment?
We try to approach patients from a variety of ways. The first is, more practically speaking, we try to run an efficient office. That means when people arrive for their appointment on time, we do our best to see them on time. I recognize that people make time to come out and visit us, and so it's important to me to respond accordingly and to see them on time. I always look up my patient's medical file ahead of time. I like to know their diagnostic testing, their cardiovascular history, the major, relevant, non-cardiac history. That way, when I see them I can optimize the face-to-face time and talk about the symptoms and address any questions that folks have.
Does the patient necessarily have to go to Cleveland to see a Cleveland Clinic physician?
No. That's a good question. The Cleveland Clinic employs me as a cardiologist, but my clinic and my hospital work is full time here at Fisher-Titus. That means, for folks who come and see me in my clinic, No. 1, my clinic is located in Fisher-Titus. No. 2, we provide all of your cardiovascular care, which means routine follow-ups, diagnostic testing, labs, referrals if you need to see other providers. There are certain procedures which are specialized which, if you do ultimately need them, I would have you referred to the main campus because they're not performed here, but for the vast majority of your testing and your physician follow-up, all of that will be done here at Fisher-Titus.
Meet Dr. Hampole and learn more about his knowledge and expertise here.