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MAKING A MARK: Newport News doctor promotes heart health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Dr. Alexandra Ward is spreading a message of heart health to help save lives.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The American Heart Association said heart disease causes one in three deaths among women each year. 

Dr. Alexandra Ward said that’s one too many.

"When you think about your loved ones, your mothers, your daughters, your wives, your sisters-- I mean, it's a terrifying statistic," said Dr. Ward. "But it is a preventable statistic."

Dr. Ward is a cardiologist and director of the Women's Heart Center at Riverside Health System in Newport News. She’s passionate about the fight against heart disease, knowing firsthand the impact it has on people and families.

"My father has heart disease, and he was diagnosed in his 50's," said Dr. Ward. "And while I'm lucky that the women in my family have not had heart disease at a young age, they have had heart disease in older ages. My grandmother had to have bypass surgery as well."

Her focus on women’s heart health spiked during her residency, after learning that heart disease can develop and present differently in women. 

"There are some risks that are traditional that we think about that both men and women have, but there's also risks that are specific just to women," said Dr. Ward.

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Since then, she has worked to teach women what they can do to help their hearts.

"More women die every year from heart disease than men do," said Dr. Ward. "The biggest thing is knowing your risks and what those risks are and then how they can be prevented and how they can be modified."

Dr. Ward said living a healthy lifestyle has always been key.

"Heart-healthy diet and exercise," said Dr. Ward. "I mean, it sounds simple, but it's actually a great way to prevent heart disease."

The pandemic, however, brought about new challenges. 

"COVID, we know, impacts people with heart disease more so than if you don't have heart disease," said Dr. Ward. "People are not seeking care because they're afraid."

Dr. Ward said that's a major reason why reinforcing heart health is more critical now than ever.

"It's so important that all women of all ages know about heart disease... and the things that we can do to help really prevent anything from happening," said Dr. Ward. "[Be]cause our biggest weapon in the battle against heart disease is prevention."

Riverside Health System offers a wide range of heart and vascular services and resources. Visit their website for more information, including steps you can take right now to help your heart. You can also visit the website for the Women's Heart Center at Riverside here.

Author's Note: The video below is on file from Feb. 15, 2021.