Beaumont's Ministrelli Women's Heart Center

Cardiac Care: Ministrelli Women's Heart Center emphasizes prevention and treatment for an ailment often overlooked in females.


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Trudy Schomaker was curling her hair one morning in September when suddenly the strength drained out of her raised arms “like water.”

“My body felt very weak,” says the 73-year-old Rochester Hills resident. “But I took a couple of aspirin and laid down, and about 30 minutes later I felt better.”

Nonetheless, she decided to see a doctor. A few days later, she found herself in Beaumont Hospital, receiving in-patient treatment through the Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center for a congenital abnormality in her heart that requires her to avoid even minor blockages to her arteries.

Schomaker was fortunate. Too many women (and their doctors) ignore or dismiss their symptoms of cardiovascular disease. The result: Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of American women, taking the life of about 432,000 women annually. That’s 10 times as many deaths from breast cancer and twice as many deaths from all cancers combined.

In fact, more American women die of cardiac disease each year than men. But medical studies still prioritize male subjects, and cardiovascular disease continues to be viewed, even by many physicians, as primarily a male affliction. 

“There’s growing awareness, but it’s probably not enough,” says Dr. Mayra Guerrero, interventional cardiologist for Henry Ford Health System. “Most of the trials include males more than females. Female patients don’t tend to recognize when they are having a problem. They’re not aware their risk is equal, and their symptoms are different.”

Rectifying that inequity and saving women’s lives was the motivation behind the Ministrelli Women’s Heart Center, which was the first of its kind in Michigan and opened in 2002. The 5,200-square-foot center focuses on preventive testing and treatment and offers a holistic approach, providing patients with the services of a dietitian, an on-site massage therapist, and referrals for yoga, medication, and other stress-reduction options.

“Women say they’ve been told it was nothing, or they had anxiety or depression, and then they come to us and we find disease,” says Dr. Pamela Marcovitz, the center’s director. “We made a conscious effort to have a special place for women. Our mindset is one of listening to women and putting their health issues into the context of their greater lives.”

Key to the center’s effort is teaching women how to prevent — not just treat — heart disease. That means screening women for artery blockages before they’ve had a heart attack or stroke. Hospitals are increasingly screening for disease in the arteries in the neck and legs, Marcovitz, says, and finding subclinical disease.

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