New health treatment options for women, state-of-the-art care and cutting-edge programs are available across Northern Kentucky — and a major focus is heart health.

The state of Kentucky has among the highest rates of heart disease death in the nation.

More than 10,300 Kentuckians died from heart disease each year, according to the most recent annual data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Attacking the Causes

About 38 percent of all deaths in Kentucky are due to heart attack or stroke, according to the American Heart Association.

In fact, heart disease affects one in three women in Kentucky.

Northern Kentucky’s healthcare providers, specifically St. Elizabeth Healthcare and The Christ Hospital Health Network, have opened new facilities and launched programs to address the underlying causes of heart disease — obesity, smoking and lack of exercise.

Kentucky is above the national average in those three factors, which fuel the risk of heart disease.

Just over a year ago, Christ Hospital Physicians opened its first outpatient center in Northern Kentucky at 1955 Dixie Highway in Fort Wright.

The 44,000 square-foot center in a former Stein Mart location offers a variety of medical services and physician offices including cardiovascular care and screening.

Through its relationship with the Christ Hospital Health Network, according to a spokesman, the center offers:

• Advanced treatment of heart failure, including mechanical devices to assist a failing heart.

• The most experienced center for non-surgical replacement of aortic valves.

• An extensive treatment program for heart rhythm abnormalities. 

• Groundbreaking research trials for the treatment of coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular conditions.

For example, the Christ Hospital’s Lindner Research Center recently implanted a first-of-its-kind cardiac intervention device that dissolves after opening blocked arteries, leaving no metal device in the body and potentially reducing risks for some patients.

Patient education videos are provided on Christ’s website as well as information on the doctors, the practice specialties and other resources.

St. Elizabeth Leads Coalition

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in Kentucky, but a five-year-old collaborative effort led by St. Elizabeth Healthcare is trying to change that by building women’s awareness and education.

More than 200 Kentucky women out of 100,000 die from heart disease each year compared with 176 per 100,000 nationally on an age-adjusted basis, according to the American Heart Association.

The Northern Kentucky Women’s Cardiovascular Assessment, Risk Reduction and Education Collaborative (Women’s CARE) was created in 2007 with a $1.5 million federal grant through the Office of Women’s Health and the Kentucky Department of Health and Human Services to help reduce those numbers.

Last year the collaborative reached an estimated 30,000 women in Northern Kentucky with either direct medical services or screening such as blood pressure checks through an array of community and business groups, says CARE project coordinator Kristin Theobald.

That’s up from more than 19,000 women between the ages of 20 and 80 in the first year.

“The idea is to identify the risk for women and their (blood pressure) numbers, and educate them about the disease,” she says.

Women’s CARE Collaborative brings together more than 16 partner organizations.

The program provides blood pressure screening and cardiovascular health education to women in general, and intensive lifestyle interventions for women with established cardiovascular disease risk factors.

The incidence of heart disease far exceeds the one in eight risk women face from breast cancer, the coalition says.

Improving the odds

“Kentucky is above the national average in a lot of bad things: obesity, smoking and lack of physical activity,” says Theobald.

She suggests women should know their blood pressure and check it regularly — it is simple and inexpensive.

“You can get your blood pressure checked at Wal-Mart and even dentist offices do it,” she says. Keeping it under control can pay dividends in heading off heart disease.

“Even a small improvement in your numbers, can have a dramatic impact on bad outcomes,” Theobald says.

To help women deal with the underlying causes of heart disease, St. Elizabeth’s and other members of the coalition offer a variety of programs.

They include smoking cessation classes, healthy eating seminars, and Zumba and Pilates classes.

The Big Picture

St. Elizabeth’s approach focuses on helping patients determine where they stand in terms of preventive treatment or care.

Its Women’s Heart Program provides risk prevention and screening in a spa-like setting with:

• Personalized assessment and counseling.

• Individual sessions with experts including cardiac nurses, nurse practitioners, exercise, nutrition and holistic health experts.

• Educational and support programs.

• Ongoing patient contact and support.

• Risk assessments including lipids, blood pressure, heart rate, body mass index and EKGs.