Women and Heart Disease



The doctors and staff at the MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute understand that women may face unique health challenges when it comes to heart care and preventing heart disease. In fact, one in two women will die of heart disease. Heart disease claims more women’s lives than cancer, chronic lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and accidents combined.

Women face more serious cardiovascular effects from diabetes, which is more common among women. Their risk for heart disease increases after menopause as their estrogen levels decline. Before that, estrogen provides some protection against the effects of high cholesterol, a common factor in heart disease.

Symptoms of Women's Heart Disease

Heart disease symptoms are different for women than men. They can be more subtle in nature and sometimes hard to identify.

For example, women rarely experience crushing chest pain. Rather, women describe a fullness or discomfort in the chest, isolated discomfort in the jaw, or pain in the left or right arm or abdomen. Women also experience difficulty finishing typical activities either at work or at home without extreme shortness of breath, and they often report feeling exceedingly tired.

Because many women brush off their symptoms as not significant or due to aging, they therefore, frequently have advanced heart disease, and are  more likely to have a silent heart attack or die during their first heart attack.

Therefore, it is exceedingly important for women to understand the symptoms of heart disease and to know their risk factors. The following "ABCs of Women's Heart Disease Symptoms" should help identify the symptoms of heart disease in women.

  • Angina: chest discomfort or fullness
  • Blackouts or fainting
  • Breathlessness: experienced during activities or waking up breathless at night
  • Chronic fatigue: an inability to complete routine activities
  • Dizziness: this can indicate irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias
  • Edema: swelling, particularly of the lower legs and ankles
  • Fluttering heartbeats: palpations, rapid heartbeats that may cause pain or difficulty breathing
  • Gastric upset: nausea or vomiting, unrelated to diet, indigestion or abdominal pain
  • Sweating

If you experience any of these symptoms frequently (about once a day), see a physician—the symptoms are serious and should not be ignored. Keep notes about when the symptoms occur, what triggers them, and what, if anything, relieves them. It also is helpful to make a list of past treatment and all medications you are currently taking.

At MedStar Heart Institute & Vascular Institute, our cardiologists focus on women and women’s health care. We know that women need a specialized approach to their cardiac health, so our women’s cardiovascular program focuses on early assessment of your risk for heart disease and working with you to correct those risk factors. We believe that with the right care, you can largely prevent heart disease.

Heart Disease Prevention for Women

There are steps you can take today to prevent heart disease. Here are some ways you can stay healthy:

  • Identify behaviors that contribute to your risk (smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise)
  • Ask your physician about your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, body mass index (BMI)
  • Learn about your family history
  • Discuss all of the above with your physician

If you discover that you are at risk for heart disease or are diagnosed with heart disease, the Heart Institute’s cardiologists will partner with you to achieve the best outcomes possible.

Heart Disease and African American Women

African-American women are at greater risk for heart disease than Caucasian women. In fact, the death rate from heart disease is 35 percent higher among African-American women than among their Caucasian counterparts.

Why? The medical community has no easy answers. The first step is knowledge and understanding of specific risk factors and how they relate to heart disease for African-American women. These may include:

  • Obesity
    • Two-thirds of all African-American women are either overweight or obese.
  • Diabetes
    • The fastest-growing risk factor for heart disease in this country is more prevalent among African-American women than Caucasian women.
    • Nine percent of Caucasian women between the ages of 45 and 54 have diabetes, compared to 15 percent of African-American women.
    • The difference is even higher between the ages 55 and 64, where 15 percent of Caucasians have diabetes compared to 30 percent for their African-American counterparts.
    • The death rate from diabetes is 167 percent higher for African-American than Caucasian women.
  • High Blood Pressure
    • Even a slightly high level doubles the risk of heart disease, making the heart work harder to get the job done.
    • Twice as many African-American women have high blood pressure as Caucasian women, significantly increasing the risk of heart disease.
    • Diet, lifestyle, and exercise all factor into high blood pressure rates.

Call Us Today

To find a heart specialist, call:

877-74-HEART (43278)

Lung Cancer


From routine exams and screenings to pre-admission testing and treatment to emergency care our patients, patients of the Lung Cancer Program at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital receive the highest quality of care from a compassionate and highly qualified oncology team. 

 Accredited by the American College of Surgeons (ACOS), our team approach to care gives patients access to the area’s top specialists—specialists who work together to customize treatment plans to meet the unique needs of each individual.

 Our thoracic oncology program features:

  • A Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Clinic where patients consult with surgical, radiation and medical oncologists in one setting, discuss their treatment options on the day they are seen and collaborate in the development of an individualized treatment plan. Our cancer care navigator and genetic counselor are also available during the clinic.
  • Access to cutting-edge treatments through participation in some of the most innovative clinical trials currently being conducted in the nation.
  • The most up-to-date treatment modalities in radiation therapy, medical oncology, surgery and pulmonology.
  • A dedicated, state-of-the-art thoracic Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
  • Lung cancer screening and smoking cessation programs.

 Our experienced cancer care navigator guides patients throughout the cancer journey, ensuring that they are seen in a timely fashion by the appropriate specialists while providing education and encouragement.

 To make an appointment for any of our services call 877-715-HOPE.

Go back to Our Specialties.

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To find a lung cancer specialist:


Lung Cancer Specialists

Lung-Thoracic Surgery:

Related Information

Colorectal Cancer


At MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, our multidisciplinary approach to the diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer is personalized to ensure the best outcomes while taking into account each patient’s quality of life. Here you will find a team of cancer experts, supported by other highly trained professionals, who are focused on providing the most advanced care with the least impact.

 Our board-certified surgeons specialize in the treatment of colorectal cancer, which translates into a remarkable depth of experience and skill. Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgeries can often be used, which results in less pain and faster recoveries than traditional surgeries.

 Our colorectal cancer program features:

  • A multidisciplinary colorectal cancer approach to discuss treatment options and develop an individualized treatment plan.
  • Diagnostic and therapeutic colonoscopy.
  • State-of-the-art technology to carefully diagnose and stage colorectal cancer, minimizing the time between screening and diagnosis so treatment can begin sooner.
  • Open and laparoscopic surgical options.
  • The opportunity to participate in innovative clinical trials offering patients cutting-edge treatments.

 Patients are supported by our dedicated patient navigator, who guides them throughout the cancer journey, providing education and encouragement.

 To make an appointment for any of our services call 877-715-HOPE

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Call Us Today

To find a colorectal cancer specialist:


Colorectal Cancer Specialists

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Breast Cancer Center at MedStar Union Memorial

breast cancer

The Breast Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital is dedicated to providing exceptional breast health services—services designed for the unique needs of our patients. From routine mammography screenings to the detection and treatment of breast cancer, our state-of-the-art facility, offers customized care from an expert team—all in one convenient location.

As one of few sites in the region and the country to participate in vaccine trials for breast cancer, the Breast Center at MedStar Union Memorial features advanced technology and cutting-edge treatment options. The Center offers a full array of services to support breast health including breast surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, clinical trials, genetic counseling, and a wide range of support services — all in one convenient location. 

Here you will find patient-focused compassionate care delivered in a supportive, positive environment, the latest diagnostic technology and clinical services, and expedited appointments and results. Our team approach to care gives patients access to the area’s top specialists—specialists who work together to provide individualized treatment plans that meet the unique needs of each individual. 

Program Highlights

  • A Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Clinic where patients meet with surgical, radiation and medical oncologists in one setting, discuss their treatment options on the day they are seen and collaborate in the development of an individualized treatment plan.
  • State-of-the-art technology to carefully diagnose and stage breast cancer, minimizing the time between screening and diagnosis so treatment can begin sooner. For abnormal screening results, a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy will be completed within 48 hours.
  • The opportunity to participate in innovative clinical trials offering patients cutting-edge treatments. We are excited to be one of the few sites in the country, and the only site in the region, to participate in vaccine trials for breast cancer.
  • Intraoperative radiation treatment (IORT), an innovative one-stop treatment option that makes it possible for select lumpectomy patients to receive the full course of radiation in the operating room immediately after surgery, eliminating the need for follow-up radiation therapy. Learn more about IORT at the MedStar Health Baltimore Cancer Network

 Our experienced associates act as navigators guiding patients throughout the cancer journey. They ensure that patients are seen in a timely fashion by the appropriate specialists and provide education, support and encouragement.

To make an appointment for any of our services or to speak with a breast center coordinator call 877-715-HOPE.


The Breast Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital has received a three-year/full accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC)

Receiving care at a NAPBC-accredited center ensures that a patient will have access to:

  • Comprehensive care, including a full range of state-of-the-art services
  • A multidisciplinary team approach to coordinate the best treatment options
  • Information about ongoing clinical trials and new treatment options
  • Quality breast care close to home

 "This accreditation is a testament to the high level of care we provide to our breast cancer patients,” said Maen Farha, MD, FACS, medical director of the Breast Center at MedStar Union Memorial. “From early diagnosis to cutting-edge treatment and the latest clinical trials, we are proud to offer our patients the strength and depth of a nationally recognized program designed to best meet their individualized needs.”

Learn more about our accreditation

Learn More:

Watch Emily Kuchinsky, MS, certified genetic counselor with the MedStar Health Cancer Network explain a woman’s genetic risk for breast cancer.

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Call Us Today

To find a breast cancer specialist:


Location Information

The Breast Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
3333 North Calvert St.
Johnston Professional Bldg
Baltimore, MD 21218


"There is no higher religion than human service. To work for the common good is the greatest creed." - Albert Schweitzer

Volunteers who wish to provide human service in work for our common good have many such opportunities at MedStar Union Memorial. We offer meaningful experiences in many areas, from direct care with patients in our patient aide, and hospitality programs, to Auxiliary fund-raising programs such as the Gift Shop and special sales. A variety of behind-the-scenes positions are also available, including work in our library, blood bank, employee health and medical records. We offer a unique variety of opportunities designed to match your skills, interests and preferences with the hospital's needs.

Beyond the fun and satisfaction of providing meaningful service to others, our volunteers receive:

  • Complimentary meals
  • Free parking
  • Pharmacy discounts
  • Free flu shots
  • Use of the fitness center after 3 months
  • Medical library privileges
  • Special recognition awards

We also offer enrichment opportunities through:

  • Learning new skills
  • Experiencing new challenges
  • Meeting new people
  • Forming new friendships

Our summer Junior Volunteer program offers area students a chance to meet their community service requirements necessary for graduation, while introducing them to exciting health care careers in a safe, friendly environment.

Join the Team!
For our program to be beneficial to both volunteers and the hospital, we require at least a three-month commitment and four hours per week.

MedStar Union Memorial is proud of its volunteers, some of whom have been with us for more than 20 years. Collectively, our volunteers contribute more than 50,000 hours of service to the hospital each year.

We are eager to discuss your interest in volunteering. Please allow us to welcome you as part of our continuing tradition of providing a vital service to our community.

For more information or to request an application, call the Volunteer Services Department at 410-554-2507.


Hospitalist Medicine

Who is a hospitalist at MedStar Health?

Our hospitalists are highly qualified physicians specializing in Internal Medicine. Their career choice to dedicate their experience and expertise to hospital medicine places them in a unique position to care for acutely-ill hospitalized patients.

How does the hospitalist program work?

Hospitalists serve as a liaison between you and your primary care physician. They are responsible for your care for the duration of your stay in the hospital. The hospitalists also play a role in identifying the appropriate post-discharge medical needs of uninsured people without any prior primary care.

What are the responsibilities of a hospitalist?

Your hospitalist is responsible for your care while you are in the hospital. This may involve calling consultants from other specialties to care for your special medical needs. He or she is also available to help you and your family better understand your illness, treatment options and recovery.

How often will I see the hospitalist?

A member of the hospitalist team is available 24 hours, seven days a week to address any acute medical issues in the hospital. Above that, their daily duties are to perform patient rounds, monitor progress, review test results and address treatment changes as necessary. They work together efficiently as a team which means that you may be taken care of by more than one hospitalist depending on the length of your stay.

What role will my primary care physician have in my care?

Depending on your condition, the hospitalist and primary care physician may stay in contact with each other to determine your treatment and progress while you are hospitalized.

Will the hospitalist continue to care for me after I am discharged?

As the name suggests, hospitalists only work with you while you are hospitalized. After hospital discharge, you will return to the care of your primary care physician who would be informed about clinical details about your hospital stay. The aim is to decrease an interruption in your recovery.

Emergency, Urgent Care and Trauma

Please note: If you are facing a life-threatening situation, call 911.


At MedStar Union Memorial Hospital, we know that anyone can have an emergency at any time, which is why our Emergency Department (ED) is open 24 hours a day, every day.

Having a medical emergency can be scary, but it doesn’t have to be. At MedStar Union Memorial, we’re here to help you in times of a medical emergency by giving you the best care possible. Everyone who comes to our ED will be treated, regardless of their ability to pay.

Emergency Care

All of the patients who arrive at our ED are treated based on their medical needs, not necessarily on a first come, first served basis. Patients with a serious or life-threatening illness or injury will be treated right away. Patients with a less serious conditions may need to wait. When you arrive to our ED, you will first be seen by a triage nurse who will determine how serious your condition is. This nurse will ask you questions about your medical history. Please give the nurse complete and correct information. This information will remain confidential.


For minor emergencies, MedStar Union Memorial Hospital offers FlexCare, where the most common emergency medical issues can be treated in 90 minutes or less. FlexCare is located near the Emergency Room and is available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Some types of injuries and illnesses typically seen in our FlexCare are:

  • Bites from animals or insects
  • Bronchitis, congestion and coughs
  • Earaches
  • Flu and infections
  • Minor allergic reactions with swelling or itching
  • Minor foreign body removal
  • Skin and tissue injuries, such as cuts and puncture wounds without excessive bleeding
  • Sprains and some broken bones

Emergency Medical Specialists

MedStar Union Memorial staffs a core group of emergency physicians, including a pediatrician, who are board-certified in emergency medicine. Their goal is to find out what your medical problem is and to treat your condition. Our emergency physicians will work with your own physician if long-term treatment is needed. If you do not have a regular physician, our ED staff can help find one for you.

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To contact the Emergency Department:


Related Information

Vascular Care

Patients come throughout the region to seek the care of our experienced and compassionate vascular surgeons. This experienced group performs a full spectrum of procedures including the most complex treatments as well as the latest minimally invasive therapies for an extensive range of vascular conditions. Our nurses and staff are experienced in caring for patients both before and after surgery, and our minimally invasive procedures ensure fewer complications and shorter hospital stays.

Vascular Diagnosis

At MedStar Union Memorial, we use a variety of tests to diagnose vascular disease, including vascular ultrasounds, including:

  • Abdominal Duplex
  • Arterial Duplex for legs and arms
  • Arterial Doppler for legs and arms
  • Carotid Duplex
  • Mesenteric and Renal Artery Duplex
  • Venous Duplex for legs and arms

Learn more about diagnosis.

Vascular Conditions Treated

  • Aneurysms
  • Claudication
  • Kidney/Renal Failure
  • Vascular Diseases of the Arteries
    • Carotid Artery Disease
    • Mesenteric Artery Disease
    • Peripheral Artery Disease
    • Renal Artery Disease
  • Vascular Diseases of the Veins

Learn more about the conditions we treat.

Vascular Treatments

  • Abdominal Aneurysm Treatment
  • Bypass
  • Carotid Artery Endarterectomy
  • Carotid Artery Stenting
  • Hemodialysis Access
  • Peripheral Angioplasty and Stenting
  • Renal Mesenteric Artery Stenting
  • Thoracic Aneurysm Treatment
  • Varicose Vein Treatment

Learn more about our treatments.

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To find a vascular specialist:


Awards and Recognitions

  • Designated as a Primary Stroke Center for the state of Maryland.
  • Received Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Gold Award from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, 2016

Diabetes and Endocrinology

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Heart Care

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877-74-HEART (43278)

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