Nancy Raines is currently the Chief Operating Officer for Saint Thomas Heart. With more than fifteen years at Saint Thomas Health, she has previously held the position of Emergency Services Director. At Saint Thomas Heart, Nancy leads a team that encompasses all aspects of operations including Health Information Management, Cardiac Diagnostic Imaging, Clinical Services, and Patient Services, and provides support for all Saint Thomas Heart Divisions including Saint Thomas, Baptist, Murfreesboro, Franklin, Lebanon, Gallatin, McMinnville, Lawrenceburg, Winchester, Tullahoma, Clarksville, and Goodlesttsville. Nancy received degrees in nursing at Belmont University and the University of Alabama. She also competed a degree in Health Services Leadership. She participates in professional organizations such as Medical Group Management Association, MedAxiom, and American College of Healthcare Executives.

Q: My Mother’s family has heart disease throughout. Her father died of a heart attack in his early sixties. She lost one brother to a heart attack in his forties. The other two had heart attacks and subsequent open heart surgery in their fifties and sixties. She herself suffered a heart attack and subsequent open heart surgery at seventy. Her two sisters suffered strokes in their seventies. I had a stress test in my forties that was ok. I’ve been to the drug-store sponsored testing that is supposed to indicate your risk of stroke. I am in my early fifties and don’t want to look for trouble but wonder if there is anything else, besides watching my diet and exercising I can do?

A: You certainly have a strong family history for cardiovascular disease, including stroke and heart disease. Diet and exercise are both important components of a preventative program. However, annual evaluation and diagnostic testing, including exercise stress testing and both cardiac and vascular ultrasound, is essential for someone with such a strong family history. Testing to determine presymptomatic genetic risk has also shown promise in preventing or improving cardiovascular health.

Q: My father died of a heart attack as well as an uncle. Another uncle has heart failure and my brother has had stents put in twice. Am I at greater risk of heart disease since it only seems to be in the men in my family?

A: Yes, greater risk runs along family lines and isn’t gender specific. If you haven’t recently (within the past year) been evaluated for heart disease I recommend that you schedule an appointment with a trusted healthcare provider for an evaluation and a plan for prevention.

Q: When should I begin to think about my heart health?

A: The origins of heart disease are thought to be in childhood. Women should be concerned about heart disease early on and throughout their lives. They should be concerned about cardiovascular health for their children, also. Most of the risk factors for heart disease are under a woman’s control and it is critically important that every woman be informed about the risk of heart disease and that she take steps to lower risk factors.

Q: How are things changing or improving to help women live longer, heart-healthier lives?

A: Prior to 10 years ago, most of the information from research trials did not include women. Now it is federally mandated that research studies include women. Important new information has emerged on the reduction of cardiovascular risk factors in both men and women. Specifically for women, data is available on weight management, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and enhancing physical activity.

Q:Is there a point of no return, when a woman simply can’t improve her likelihood of having a healthy heart?

A: A woman can lower her risk of heart disease at any age! Even women in their 60s, who may have heart disease, can still lower their risk of heart disease-related problems by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle. At my clinic, we recommend that women over the age of 50 not only have a regular treadmill test at our clinic but also have regular high speed CT scans of their coronary arteries. Even if a woman does not have symptoms, we feel this is an important way of monitoring whether or not any early evidence of chronic atherosclerosis is present and whether or not it is progressing.

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with sourced information from Ladies Home Journal