Women's Heart Wellness Center Opens in Southington

November 01, 2015

Sharon Corlette, of Plainville, was feeling quite healthy when she saw her primary care physician, Dr. Jonathan Pendleton, last spring. Corlette, then 68, was taking medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but she regularly worked out at the gym, where her routine included 30 or 40 minutes on the elliptical trainer. She happened to mention that she’d begun having — not pain — but an odd sensation in her chest while on the elliptical and that she would perspire profusely. Pendleton was concerned. He insisted she schedule an appointment with Dr. Heather Swales, a cardiologist with The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) and director of the hospital’s Women’s Heart Wellness Center. Swales evaluated Corlette and ordered several tests. The results were shocking to Corlette. “I had four blockages in my coronary arteries!” she says. “I had to have open-heart surgery.”

Corlette had successful open-heart surgery at Hartford Hospital in August. Fortunately, her disease was found and treated before it could damage her heart. She’s now in HOCC’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and doing well. Corlette’s experience is not unusual. Swales points out that symptoms of heart disease in women are often subtle and very different from those of men, and that the risk of heart disease in women is often underestimated. It shouldn’t be.

“Heart disease is the leading killer of women,” Swales says. “Women are also more likely than men to die or have complications after a first heart attack and are more likely to have a second heart attack.” Swales says women also need extra support when it comes to adhering to medication regimens, keeping follow-up medical appointments and making critical lifestyle changes.

HOCC’s Women’s Heart Wellness Center, part of the Division of Cardiology, was created to meet the unique needs of women with heart-related problems. The center opened in 2013 at the New Britain General campus and last month a second location opened at HOCC’s Bradley Memorial campus in Southington.

Swales notes that the Southington center provides women in the community easy access to cardiac care close to where they live. The Southington location is open from 8 a.m. to noon on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Women don’t need a referral from their primary care doctors unless their insurance plans require it. The center is staffed by board-certified cardiologists, nurses, a cardiac rehabilitation exercise specialist, a cardiac sonographer, medical assistants and administrative staff.

The center offers all noninvasive diagnostic tests and treatments, and a complete cardiac rehabilitation facility is on site. Most important, the Southington center, like its New Britain counterpart, offers the finest cardiac care in an environment where, Swales says, “we’re particularly sensitive to the differences and needs of women.”

Corlette is pleased with the cardiac care and rehabilitation services she’s received. She says Swales is “wonderful” and is always available to speak with her. Educational classes provided as part of her rehabilitation program have helped her make heart-healthy lifestyle changes and cope with the emotional aspects of major surgery. Now, she says, she’d like to find a way to educate other women who might be at risk of heart disease.

“I want to reach out to young women who could be walking around with heart disease and not know it,” Corlette says. “If I could help one person, it would certainly be worth it.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment at the Women’s Heart Wellness Center, call 860.224.5694.