It’s a little-known fact, but cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among U.S. women.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 56% of women realize that heart disease is the top health risk. That lack of awareness is why Houston Methodist Clear Lake Hospital is stepping up efforts to educate Bay Area women about the risks of cardiac and vascular disease and steps they can take to prevent a cardiovascular event.


“Women are usually the caretakers of their families but that often means their focus is on the well-being of their loved ones, and not their own health,” says Houston Methodist Clear Lake’s Joseph J. Naoum, M.D., a board-certified vascular surgeon. “So they may overlook their risk factors, such as a family history of heart problems or high blood pressure, and even ignore early symptoms of cardiovascular disease until it’s too late. We can change that through education, increased screening and prevention.”


The issue is especially important because when women do have a heart attack or vascular issue, they are often slower to seek medical assistance than men. That’s because women often experience different symptoms than what is typically associated with a heart attack. While chest pain or discomfort is sometimes present, women are more likely to suffer from shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting and back or jaw pain.


“Many women brush off these symptoms because they attribute them to the flu, stress or simply being run-down,” says Naoum. “Learning the signs and symptoms of a heart attack is critical to seeking immediate treatment that could save your life.”


To help spread the word about the importance of women’s cardiovascular health, Naoum is serving as a local ambassador of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women, a comprehensive initiative to increase women’s heart health awareness. The movement’s signature event, National Wear Red Day, is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2020.


Houston Methodist Clear Lake employees are also taking part in the 2019 Bay Area Heart Walk, which takes place on Nov. 9 at the Kemah Boardwalk.


“Our goal is to help spread the word that cardiovascular disease is a critical issue for women and raise funds for research and new treatments,” says Naoum. “But we also want women to know that we are making significant investments in our cardiac and vascular services at Houston Methodist Clear Lake, in order to provide the best possible screening and treatment.”


For example, Houston Methodist Clear Lake is opening two new cardiac catheterization labs in November, which will provide increased access to interventional procedures. The expanded cardiac care unit incorporates the latest and most sophisticated technology, including state-of-the-art ultrasound machines and a biplane interventional imaging system, which uses two rotating digital X-ray cameras to provide the most detailed blood vessel and soft tissue images available.


The new cath lab also has expanded electrophysiology capabilities, used to test and treat the heart’s electrical activity.


Naoum specializes in the treatment of a wide range of vascular conditions, such as aortic/abdominal aneurysms, venous disease, varicose/spider veins and peripheral artery disease (PAD) – a painful narrowing of the arteries.


“Many of these conditions can be treated via minimally invasive techniques, which typically can be done on an outpatient basis or with a one-night stay in the hospital,” says Naoum. “Varicose and spider veins, for example, aren’t just a cosmetic issue. They can be quite painful and can lead to other issues. But we have a number of ways we can treat them that can be performed without significant side effects.”


In January, Naoum is presenting a free seminar at Houston Methodist Clear Lake to discuss the latest minimally invasive treatments for venous disease and varicose/spider veins.


Another major cardiovascular issue for women of all ages is dangerous blood clots, either deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolisms (PE).


“Women are at increased risk when taking birth control pills in combination with smoking,” says Naoum. “DVTs and PEs are extremely serious and can be fatal. At Houston Methodist Clear Lake Hospital, we have access to the latest technologies and devices to treat these conditions successfully with a variety of minimally invasive approaches.”


To make an appointment with Dr. Naoum, call Houston Methodist Cardiovascular Surgery Associates at 281.523.2363.