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'Top DOC' Gives Tips for Healthy Hearts

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Cardiologist Lynne E. Wagoner, Hyde Park mother of three married to an attorney, has a slew of titles at the University of Cincinnati Heart & Vascular Center: director of cardiac services at University Hospital, director of clinical trials for the UC Heart & Vascular Center, associate professor of medicine at the UC College of Medicine and medical director for heart failure and the transplant program.

Seated at her desk in the cavernous Medical Sciences Building behind University Hospital, she looks impossibly young in an office filled with framed snapshots of her children, including one of her little daughters in last year's Halloween costumes. A stuffed Teddy Bear is seated on stars-and-stripes playhouse furniture. Diplomas and awards line the walls.

Her latest tribute was published in the February issue of Good Housekeeping magazine, naming her "an exceptional practitioner" at one of the 44 top cardiac centers for women in the nation. The magazine partnered with Castle Connolly, publisher of "America's Top Doctors."

The North Carolina native was surprised to be singled out as a noted cardiologist for women. She said, "I don't focus on women, but I am one." She's concerned that many women think men are more likely to have heart disease. Giving three public-service speeches in one week last month, she pointed out that "heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women. In fact, 50,000 more women than men die of heart disease every year."

Another complicating factor is that women are slow to recognize their own heart attack symptoms, which may be more vague than those experienced by men with tightness in the chest and a pain down the arm. Furthermore, some women are reluctant to cause a fuss and get to an emergency ward.

Dr. Wagoner emphasizes prevention, so when a woman patient complained about shortness of breath, she suggested that she lose 10 to 20 pounds -- a goal that wouldn't overwhelm her patient.

The obesity factor, currently of epidemic proportions, she compared to a person climbing stairs carrying grocery bags. Without that extra weight (or the equivalent in body fat), the breathing is easier.

Dr. Wagoner said that LDL (the so-called "bad") cholesterol is still a primary indication of heart-health risk. Arterial inflammation, which can be indicated by various blood tests and may be another big risk factor, is not yet treatable, she said.

For now, she encourages people to get an annual physical exam. "Know your cholesterol profile, family history, keep track of blood pressure and establish whether or not you may be pre-diabetic."

Even knowing all these factors of cardiovascular disease, she says that doctors still "miss some people" at risk.

Dr. Wagoner said that prevention has to start in school. Children have to be taught to exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and to resist smoking.

"We are seeing patients that are younger and younger -- in their 20s. It used to be odd to see a man in his 30s. . .Children need to learn portion control and to avoid bad snacks. "They all want to do McDonald's, but limit such food to once a week.

"The big thing is exercise. Limit TV-watching unless it's on a stationary bike."

(C) 2004 The Cincinnati Post. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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