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Colorado program focuses on heart disease prevention, care for pregnant women

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Posted at 9:28 PM, Mar 31, 2023

DENVER — More than 60 million American women have some form of heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it's the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. and can impact them at any age.

There's a program in Colorado focusing on prevention for pregnant women. Desiree Ramirez says it helped her get through a tough pregnancy.

“We went through five years of IVF and infertility,” Ramirez explained.

When Ramirez and her wife found out they were expecting, they couldn’t believe it. They welcomed their son, Jovian, into the world 15 months ago. Little did Ramirez know how difficult her pregnancy would be.

“When I was seven weeks pregnant, my heart rate got up to 210 beats per minute,” said Ramirez.

In 2016, she was diagnosed with superventricular tachycardia (SVT), a condition that causes an irregularly fast or erratic heartbeat and affects the heart’s upper chambers.

“At 27 weeks, I had a heart ablation. That’s when they go in and put you into SVT to try to figure out where the pathways are in that extra beat is getting stuck and then zap that portion of your heart,” said Ramirez.

When Jovian was born, Ramirez thought things would improve, but they didn’t.

“Three months after giving birth, I had another heart ablation, and that was a year ago. And this year, this month, I haven’t had any SVTs since then,” she said.

Ramirez thanks Intermountain Health's Cardiology-Obstetrics Program for her recovery.

Dr. Kirsten Hesterberg says cardio-obstetrics is a new focus area in the field of cardiology. When the program launched in 2021, it was the first of its kind in the Denver metro.

“When we look at maternal mortality — and unfortunately, it's going up in the United States — and that's been a trend over the last number of years. And unfortunately, it's estimated more than 50% is preventable,” Hesterberg explained.

That's why Hesterberg says the collaboration of doctors within the program is so important. It gives patients with heart conditions the care they need before, during and after pregnancy.

"We’re getting a lot of information about things that happen during pregnancy. For example, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, eclampsia. These have implications for women's future heart risk," Hesterberg said.

Ramirez says this is a program that has set her up on the right track for the future. She told Denver7 she would have another baby, despite all the risks.

“You climb over mountains to have a baby, and I would do it all again. I have the support of the doctors that I need,” said Ramirez.

Intermountain Health's Cardiology-Obstetrics Program is located in Brighton and at Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver.

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