The Heart of the Matter
Heart disease is no longer just a male health issue.
Of all the medical issues Tonya Carter could inherit from her family line, cancer was the one that gave her the biggest cause for concern.
However, last winter she discovered she was wrong after a string of heart-related issues led to a surprising revelation. Tonya found out she had been living with a congenital heart condition that had severely hampered her quality of life for most of her life.
The 49-year-old always had low energy, but figured it was just how she was made. The truth, however, was that her heart wasn’t operating at full capacity. Carter had a leaking heart valve. Her condition was discovered after a dizzy spell sent her to the emergency department where her blood pressure reading was unusually high.
Carter was diagnosed with high blood pressure, but additional tests revealed a larger problem. She was referred to Mukul Chandra, MD, cardiologist with Miami Valley Hospital, who administered an echocardiogram and stress test that revealed she needed a heart valve replacement.
Her condition didn’t leave her in any immediate danger, but Carter chose to undergo surgery in hopes of gaining a normal life. This winter, heart surgeon Ali Zaman, MD, clinical assistant professor at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, replaced Carter’s aortic valve with one constructed of cow tissue. Carter spent nearly four days in Miami Valley Hospital’s new patient tower, where she credits her private room to her faster than usual recovery time.
|Ali Zaman, MD
Following surgery Carter enrolled in a cardiac rehabilitation program and now is exercising longer than at any other time in her life. Dr. Chandra said Carter is living proof that women need to take their heart health seriously.
Heart disease, in particular, has always been viewed as a man’s disease. But coronary heart disease, which causes heart attacks, is the leading cause of death for American women. Nearly twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular disease than from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer, according to the American Heart Association.
“A woman should be attuned to her body and be able to recognize when she develops symptoms such as shortness of breath or excessive fatigue,” Dr. Chandra said. “When they see those symptoms arise, they need to get to their doctor and make sure the doctor gives it the attention that it deserves.”