By Allison Williams
It's often the women who are the last to seek out cardiologist Dr. Brenda DePaola.
Heart disease and heart attacks have been predominantly associated with men. But more women die of cardiovascular disease than any other cause of death, including all forms of cancer, according to the American Heart Association.
"We're focused on other people," DePaola says, "our children, grandchildren, husbands."
Go Red for Women, a fundraising and awareness project led by the American Heart Association, is spreading a message of prevention. A women's wellness expo and luncheon is planned for May 18 at Sky View on Hay Street in downtown Fayetteville. DePaola is one of the speakers.
She stands out in a town of male cardiologists - DePaola says she is the only female cardiologist currently practicing in Fayetteville - and some patients might be surprised to learn of her military background. DePaola joined Cape Fear Cardiology after spending 11 years in the Navy. As a Navy doctor, she saw all sides of military medicine. Aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. During a fellowship at Brooke Army Medical Center. As director of the congestive heart failure/transplant clinic and cardiac rehabilitation at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
After she left the service, she and her family settled in Fayetteville, largely because they felt at home in a military town and among the many doctors at Cape Fear Cardiology with military experience.
She became a cardiologist because, looking back, it was her grandfather's heart attack that influenced her career decision.
"That's where I got that drive to be a doctor, to make sure I take care of other people's grandparents."
DePaola has a few basic guidelines for women who think they might be at risk of a heart attack:
- Compare your overall health now to the way you felt six months ago. A decreased ability to perform the same tasks may be a sign of heart problems.
- Make and keep an appointment with your primary care doctor or a physician specializing in internal medicine. Many women are so accustomed to seeing their gynecologist, they skip the primary.
- The easiest ways to avoid heart disease are to quit smoking and add regular exercise to your routine.
How is your heart health? Take the test at goredforwomen.org. For more information about the Go Red event, contact Emily Walsh at 910-568-2144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.