Indu Poornima, MD: Improving Awareness, Education in Women’s Heart Health

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Strategic Alliance Partnership | <b>Allegheny Health Network</b>

Dr. Poornima explores improving engagement in women’s cardiovascular care from both a provider and a patient level.

Although cardiovascular disease is the top killer of women in the United States, issues involving awareness and gender bias in care make events like Heart Month and Wear Red Day important for both advocacy and education.

In an interview with HCPLive, Indu Poornima, MD, AGH McGinnis Cardiovascular Institute, emphasized her perspective on the need for engagement in heart health from a provider to provider level and trickled down to the patient level.

“We've hopefully made some strides in educating our public and coming up with programs and disease based prevention programs primarily for early detection of cardiovascular disease in women,” Poornima said.

She noted the “dismally low” percentage of recognition of the public on how cardiovascular disease affects women from an American Heart Association awareness study in the 1990s, where many assumed heart disease only affected men.

“Subsequent iterations of that survey, the last one being just about a couple of years ago, continue to show that the awareness still remains low,” she said. “I think it has actually increased to about 60 - 65% among white women, but among minorities, it still remains dismally low.”

Poornima additionally spoke to the largest barrier is making the public proactive about their heart health. For women who use their gynecologist as their primary care provider, she explained that there is a need to ask about cardiovascular risk.

She also highlighted patient focused websites for guidance, while physicians can continue to do events, particularly for minority groups who may be at a higher risk of diabetes and obesity, which may lead to cardiovascular disease.

Other topics discussed included educating providers on the differences in risk factors for women, including pregnancy related issues, family history, and women with breast cancer, as well as the differences in presentation of the disease.