Top Doctors: Q&A Freeman (Cardiology)

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Rosario Freeman, M.D.
Specialty: Cardiology
Practice: UW Medicine Regional Heart Center
Education: Loyola University, Chicago, 1995
Hospital affiliation: University of Washington Medical Center
Good to know: “Nearly two times more women die from cardiovascular disease compared to all forms of cancer (including breast cancer) combined.“

Is there a public perception of women’s heart health that you wish you could change?
I spend a great deal of time educating physicians and patients that women are indeed at high risk for heart disease. One in three women has some form of cardiovascular disease (coronary disease, hypertension, heart failure, stroke, heart valve disease), and mortality from heart disease is higher for women than it is for men.

Is there one thing that women can do for their heart health every day?
There are many things women can do for their heart health: Don’t smoke, follow a heart healthy diet, control blood pressure (if necessary with medication), lower cholesterol, exercise regularly (20­–30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily).

What are some major advances that have been made recently in your specialty?
Until recently, there wasn’t much gender-specific data for women, but new studies are coming out. Within recent years, more rigorous prospective trials for disease prevention have emerged, such as data that no longer support the use of hormone replacement for heart disease prevention. Also, there are now large, NIH-funded prospective gender-specific trials looking at everything from diagnosis, optimal testing, clinical presentation, treatment and outcomes for cardiovascular disease in women. As the results from these studies emerge, we are gaining significant gender-specific data on cardiovascular disease.

What big breakthrough in heart health research is on the horizon?
New medical-device therapies for heart diseases, such as a medical device for atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heart rhythm) that is placed in the heart to prevent blood clots from forming, which may eliminate the need for oral long-term blood-thinner therapy. Additionally, upcoming medication therapies are showing promise in prolonging life and decreasing the amount of heart injury from heart attacks.

What’s the most fun you’ve had lately?
Without a doubt, the most fun I have had recently was spending time with my family [husband and children, ages 9, 6 and 4 years old] on a recent vacation. It felt like we were—for a short time—in the middle of nowhere!