Professor Neil Strickman

Cardiologist and Vascular Specialist At Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center

“Our hospital was founded on the idea to teach and educate future doctors worldwide. This is our legacy.”

Hospitals magazine had the honor to interview one of the pioneers in interventional cardiology, Professor Neil Strickman. He specializes in the nonsurgical treatment of Aortic Valve Stenosis – TAVR; Aortic Aneurysm- EVAR, TEVAR; And Carotid artery blockages. He started his career in 1980 and his main goal was to treat all patients as individuals with the latest technologies and highest ethical standards.

What are the most common types of cardiovascular diseases in women?

The most common type of heart disease that women and men get as they age is atherosclerosis meaning the hardening of the arteries causing heart disease, heart attacks and unstable chest pain. However, it does not affect only the heart; it can affect arteries anywhere in the body. The main challenge in women is that they have smaller blood vessels, so they tend to build up fats, cholesterol and substances faster than men.

Are women at a higher risk for heart disease than men?

 In my practice, the percentage between the two genders is 40% women and 60% men, and the average age for both is 70. Nevertheless, we see more and more women at a younger age having heart problems.

However, I think women are at a higher risk because they are more in denial because they think these problems are exclusive to their spouses or partners, so they tend to ignore the symptoms they might have.

But they have the same risk.

How do symptoms of heart disease differ between men and women?

I think the main difference between men and women is that women often ignore or lack recognition of many of the risk factors, which is a risk factor by itself. Raising awareness amongst women is the first step to lowering cardiovascular risk. Moreover, because sometimes heart attack symptoms in women do not include classic angina or chest pain, they should pay more attention to their bodies and not be shy about asking questions and consulting a specialist. 

How can women reduce the risk of developing heart disease?

They can take care of the modifiable risk factors because we cannot modify our genes, so:

  • Controlling blood pressure 
  • Controlling BMI and being active
  • Quitting smoking 
  • Controlling cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Consult your physician about cardiovascular screening based on family history and risk factors.

What are female-specific disorders that increase a woman’s risk of heart disease?

Hormones play a role in women’s heart health, estrogen can be heart protective, and women have a higher estrogen level in the pre-menopausal years. However, as menopause approaches, estrogen declines, so we see more cardiovascular incidence in women after menopause, and it keeps on going up, especially after 65.

Could birth control pills put women at greater risk for cardiovascular disease?

One of the things about birth control pills is that they increase blood clotting disorders; many young women I have seen have blood clots in their legs or lungs due to birth control pills, so we advise them to stop once, we discover this. Combining smoking and taking birth control pills can increase the risk of heart disease by approximately 20%. As birth control pills tend to increase a woman’s blood pressure and the incidence of blood clots, if any woman has other risk factors for heart disease, we advise her to stop taking them to avoid any heart complications in the future.

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