Making Women’s Heart Health a Priority

Brandy Patterson, MD

For cardiologist Brandy Patterson, MD, the first few months on the job were not about getting her feet wet. She was all in from the start, not only caring for patients, but also venturing out into the Charlottesville community to share a message she’s passionate about. Women’s cardiovascular disease has been her focus since she began her cardiology fellowship at University of Florida College of Medicine. At UVA Health System, Patterson finds a solid framework of successful programs and dedicated colleagues to support her clinical and research interests, as well as her community outreach efforts.

Why is women’s heart health such an important part of your practice?
Heart disease remains the number one killer of women age 40 and older. Cardiovascular disease develops later in women than in men and therefore the risk of heart disease in women is often underestimated. There is also a common misperception that females are protected against cardiovascular disease at all ages and therefore they may be less likely to seek medical attention including diagnostic tests and /or treatment. I believe that education, self-awareness and identification of cardiovascular risk factors is the key to making a positive impact on cardiovascular disease in women.

What are some signs of cardiovascular disease in women that often get overlooked?
Women may present with nonspecific symptoms that are easily confused with the flu, reflux and/or aging. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: fatigue, dizziness/lightheadedness, shortness of breath, an ache or burning in the chest, back pain, shoulder and/or arm pain, as well as numbness in a hand or both hands.

How is UVA helping to get the message out about the importance of heart health among women?
The UVA Heart & Vascular Program has established Club Red, an online resource for women that provides them with tools to help prevent cardiovascular disease through healthy living. Besides offering a variety of activities, heart healthy recipes, and expert health tips, it is a support system to help women achieve their goals. It’s an effort that is very close to my own personal philosophy, stressing the importance of nutrition, exercise and abstinence from tobacco. I’ll be working closely with Club Red on various outreach programs and community lectures, as well as fitness programs.

How can referring physicians utilize Club Red?
Club Red is available to all who are interested in learning more about heart-healthy living. Referring physicians may find useful articles on the site that they can share with patients, or they can recommend their patients visit the site and join the club at clubreduva.com.

What are your research interests?
I am currently involved in echocardiography research to help establish protocols for the accurate measurement of left atrial volumes. This can be used to help diagnose a variety of disorders, including structural heart disease in women.

How did your experience as a hospitalist impact your current practice?
It allowed me to understand medical practice from a primary care point of view. During my time as a primary care physician, I valued direct and personal communication with specialists which I have incorporated into my current practice.

In which clinics will you be seeing patients?
Monday and Tuesday will be spent seeing general cardiology patients at Northridge Medical Park while Friday afternoons I will be at Zion Crossroads.

Watch UVA House Call, featuring Dr. Patterson, for a brief overview of cardiovascular disease risk factors and prevention.