What Women Should Know About Heart Attacks and Strokes


Contrary to popular belief, women are at just as much risk as men - if not more - for heart attack and stroke. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women.

Because early intervention can help save lives and prevent damage, it's important to recognize the symptoms and quickly seek emergency treatment. MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center offers the lifesaving techniques and medical expertise to treat heart disease and promote recovery.

Signs Differ in Women

"In men, a heart attack tends to feel like an elephant sitting on their chest. Women are more likely to feel shortness of breath, severe fatigue or pain in the jaw, shoulder, neck or back," explains Dawn Kershner, MD, a cardiologist at MedStar Franklin Square whose main focus is women and heart disease.

Heart attack symptoms may appear suddenly. Dr. Kershner urges you to call 911 right away if you notice these symptoms and there's no other reasonable explanation.

Emergency Techniques Save Lives

In MedStar Franklin Square's cardiac catheterization laboratory, doctors can restore blood flow to the heart. Contrast dye injected into the heart can show blood flow as well as blockages.

Interventional cardiologists may perform emergency angioplasty to open blockages. They put a mesh tube known as a stent over a tiny collapsed balloon and direct it to the blockage. When the balloon is inflated, the stent expands and helps prop open the artery.

"Angioplasty can help restore blood flow to the heart," says Sriram Padmanabhan, MD, chief of cardiology at MedStar Franklin Square. "It's one of several techniques we use to treat heart attack patients."

Recognizing Stroke

Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Men and women experience similar symptoms:

  • Arm weakness
  • Blurred sight or double vision
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Facial droop
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

As an accredited primary stroke center, MedStar Franklin Square provides advanced treatments to help re-establish blood flow to the brain. The longer brain tissue is deprived of oxygen, the greater the risk for paralysis, speech impairment, memory loss, problems with reasoning and even death.

When patients seek immediate treatment, MedStar Franklin Square's experts are better able to prevent disability. Clot busting drugs like tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can minimize damage if administered within three hours of stroke onset, Dr. Kershner stresses.

Location Information

For a physician referral, please call 877-74-HEART (43278).

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
9000 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237