MemorialCare, a prominent nonprofit Southern California integrated health system, has announced the launch of the Women’s Heart Center at the MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute – a specialized center dedicated solely to expertise in education, prevention, early diagnosis, and timely management of women-specific cardiac presentations across their lifespan. The Women’s Heart Center’s first site will be in conjunction with Long Beach Medical Center and MemorialCare Medical Group, with future plans to expand to additional MemorialCare sites in Orange County.

This type of sub-specialized program is an emerging field in healthcare helping bridge gender inequality in cardiac care and improve outcomes for women with heart disease. To lead a dynamic and distinctive program such as this, MemorialCare has recruited and appointed Nissi Suppogu, M.D. as the medical director of the Women’s Heart Center. Dr. Suppogu is fellowship trained, meaning she has two years of additional sub-specialty training and education in women’s heart health.

“While traditional cardiovascular disease risk factors such as obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes do affect both men and women, there is now recognition of specific risk factors for women and cardiovascular disease such as: stress with anxiety and depression, preterm delivery, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, gestational diabetes, autoimmune disease, and cancer treatment,” says Dr. Suppogu. “For instance, about 50% of women that have heart attacks do not actually have blocked coronary arteries, but instead the tiny blood vessels in their hearts are affected which is referred to as microvascular disease. These issues can cause various symptoms that aren't just chest pain. It’s crucial for specialized programs like the Women’s Heart Center to understand this difference in symptoms and look beyond blocked arteries.”

The Women’s Heart Center at MemorialCare differentiates itself from other programs by providing the gold standard of care for women, including invasive procedures like coronary function testing for microvascular disease and testing for vasospasm, to ensure a precise diagnosis. The Women’s Heart Center’s care extends to all women from pre-conception planning, care during pregnancy, early menopause, menopause and beyond, serving anyone from the age of 18 and older. Research will also hold a crucial role in shaping the plan of care. Today's women will contribute to the future health of the next generation of women while also receiving advanced treatment opportunities only available through research studies and clinical trials.

“An advanced sub-specialized program, such as the Women’s Heart Center, is only made possible with the recruitment of Nissi Suppogu, M.D., a women’s heart health and disease specialist,” says David Shavelle, M.D., chief of cardiology, MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute, MemorialCare. “In addition to being a cardiologist and her training in General Cardiology, she is fellowship-trained in Women’s Heart Health, which involved two years of specialized training at the Barbara Streisand Women’s Heart Health Center at the Cedars-Sinai Smidt Heart Institute. We are grateful to offer this level of sub-specialized care to women in our families and community.”

The closest program of its kind is more than 20 miles away from the greater Long Beach area, filling a major gap in women’s cardiac care in the South LA and North OC communities. The Women’s Heart Center also offers second opinion services for women, who continue to experience cardiac symptoms, even after having diagnostic testing but were told that there is nothing wrong with their heart and may need more advanced testing to discover the issue. This is especially important if they’ve been told they had a heart attack, but no blockages were found in their blood vessels or if they feel they haven't received an accurate diagnosis in the past.

“Women can perceive changes in their body and symptoms very well, but since we are so busy with family, career and friends, we tend to put ourselves last,” says Dr. Suppogu. “I encourage all women to know their numbers and recognize their symptoms such as chest pain, chest pressure, chest tightness along with dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain radiating to the back, neck, or left arm (associated with exercise or rest) to seek timely help. Don’t delay your care, remember how many people need you. It is time for us to work together, to advocate for our health and to change the trajectory of cardiovascular disease outcomes in women.”

The MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute is a premier institution in Southern California that specializes in offering the least invasive approaches for complex cardiovascular issues through minimally invasive procedures using catheters or tiny incisions so patients can experience rapid recoveries, less scarring, faster healing, and avoid traditional open-heart surgery. Distinguished as a leader in heart and vascular care, the MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute offers personalized prevention programs, world-renowned physicians, leading diagnostic screenings, advanced treatment, rehabilitation and leading-edge cardiovascular research.