Valentine’s Day Puts Heart at the Center of Health Talk During Health First Health Plans Event

Health First's Dr. Vishal Patel and Dr. Kevin Campbell: more women die of heart disease than men

HEALTH FIRST CARDIOLOGIST Kevin Campbell, MD, FACC, addresses audience member Agnella Cooke’s question about family history. Women’s heart disease, he told the audience, has historically been underserved by medicine. His plea to both patients and physicians is to weigh the risk factors and see a doctor early. (Health First image)

Technology and an early plan of care can change the prognosis for heart patients.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Health First Health Plans members enjoyed an intimate and important presentation from two esteemed Health First Cardiologists on Valentine’s Day, and the mostly female audience was well-served by the messengers.

Health First Cardiac Electrophysiologist Vishal Patel, MD, and Cardiologist Kevin Campbell, MD, FACC cautioned the women present (and the men accompanying them) not to think of heart attack as a male risk – more women die of heart disease than men.

Surprisingly, the statistics around CPR given to someone facing sudden cardiac death make matters worse, said Dr. Patel. While fewer than half of all people having a heart attack or in cardiac arrest get CPR (including, where available, Automated External Defibrillation), only 39% of women do compared to 45% of men.

It might seem like a small difference, he said, but because men are 1.23 times more likely to get lifesaving CPR from bystanders, their chances of survival are 23% higher than women.

Why Are Women Likely to Be Left Alone?

According to the American Heart Association, one reason is that people report being reluctant to deliver CPR to a woman because it might appear inappropriate, and the force of it might cause injury. Another is that many people don’t immediately conclude a woman is suffering sudden cardiac death. There’s a lingering myth that men are likelier to collapse while women should worry more about cancer (when the truth is exactly the opposite).

“If you profuse a brain [by circulating blood], the outcomes and prognosis are often good,” Dr. Patel said. “That can only come from high-quality CPR, so the one thing I will recommend to everyone here is, take some time out. Sign up for a CPR course. Learn how to do this. It will make a huge difference in someone’s life one day.”

Dr. Campbell has made raising issues around women’s heart health something of a mission in life. Years ago, his young daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, a lifelong condition that leaves a person much more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those who don’t have it.

“More women than men die of heart disease,” he said. “Is it because women don’t take care of their health? No, it’s because they’re undertreated and underserved. They’re not treated as aggressively. My goal is to change that.”

“I made it my mission to educate patients and physicians so that when I’m gone, someone can look after my kid and she can get the care she needs.”

HEALTH FIRST CARDIAC ELECTROPHYSIOLOGIST Vishal Patel, MD, explains sudden cardiac death. The heart’s electrical system can cause cardiac arrest, or a heart attack may be brought on by blocked blood vessels, he said. (Health First image)

Heed the Seven Risk Factors

Both doctors highlighted new technology, such as minimally invasive valve replacements, pacemakers and defibrillators, and diagnostic cardiac imaging. Today’s heart disease patients have a much better prognosis, but no one is saved who ignores big risks and symptoms.

There are seven risk factors Dr. Campbell highlighted for women (these are also factors for men):

■ High blood pressure
■ Diabetes
■ High cholesterol
■ Obesity
■ Smoking
■ A family history of heart disease
■ A sedentary lifestyle

Women are slightly more at risk than men, and among races, those of South Asian, African and Caribbean descent have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

For Health First Health Plans members, the Heart Failure Management Program was started to improve the health and well-being of members by developing self-management skills, decreasing the frequency and intensity of symptoms through medicine and evidence-based lifestyle choices, and improving a person’s functioning and quality of life.

Health First Health Plans conducts proactive outreach to members, but members can call Care Navigation at (321) 434-4560 to self-enroll.
To complete an eligibility form, visit

If you have pain, nausea, shortness of breath or any physical symptoms and would like to consult a cardiologist, visit, or call (321) 434-3131.

Visit to keep up with the latest at Health First.

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