UC Davis Women's Cardiovascular Medicine Program
The UC Davis Women's Cardiovascular Medicine program and clinic were established in 1994 as the first dedicated women's heart program in the country and to address the lack of awareness that heart disease is the leading killer of women.
The pioneering program has been singled out for distinction by California’s governor and by multiple awards for its unique, cutting edge and integrated approach to heart care for women. The program also provides outreach to a number of community organizations, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Department of Health Services.
The UC Davis Women's Cardiovascular Medicine Program offers state-of-the-art care, education and research focused on women and heart health and provides dedicated care for women who are at risk for or who have heart disease. The clinic's health care team employs a multidisciplinary approach that emphasizes prevention and attention to the heart-health issues that are unique to women.
Directed by Amparo Villablanca, the program has four major areas of focus:
- Excellence in women’s heart care that is comprehensive, woman-centered, gender specific, and evidence-based
- Community education and training of health professionals
- Innovative state of the art research
- Community engagement and advocacy
Our program aims to address cardiovascular health concerns of women by:
- Raising awareness of the impact of heart disease in women's health
- Educating health-care professionals, patients and the community
- Providing evidence-based cardiac services for women (who may require a different diagnostic and treatment approach than men) in an innovative, interdisciplinary, comprehensive, and supportive setting
- Conducting sex and gender-specific research spanning bench to bedside
- Decreasing cardiovascular disease risk and mortality for women
The UC Davis Women's Cardiovascular Medicine Program offers state-of-the-art care, education and research focused on women and heart health. We also provide dedicated care for women who are at risk for or who have heart disease. The clinic's health care team employs a multidisciplinary approach that emphasizes prevention and attention to the heart-health issues that are unique to women.
Clinical Services Offered
Because heart disease can be related to hereditary, lifestyle and environmental factors, the clinic offers a wide range of preventive, diagnostic, risk assessment, treatment, educational and referral services, including:
- Specialty clinical care in cardiovascular medicine
- Nutrition and dietary counseling
- Risk factor analysis and intervention, including diagnosis and treatment of cholesterol disorders and high blood pressure
- Education on smoking cessation, exercise and stress reduction
- Opportunities to participate in UC Davis research related to women's cardiovascular health and community events
- Cardiac rehabilitation
- Referrals for cardiac subspecialty care
We offer care for women who can experience a variety of cardiac conditions more frequently or differently from men, including:
- Coronary artery disease
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Angina (cardiac chest pain)
- Mitral valve prolapse and other abnormalities of the heart valves
- Arrhythmias (problems with heart beat rhythm)
- Congenital heart disease (heart disease that a woman is born with)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Stroke ("brain attack")
- pregnancy related disorders that increase heart disease risk (gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, pre eclampsia and eclampsia)
- Congestive heart failure
- Chest pain associated with normal or non obstructed coronary arteries (ANOCA, MINOCA, INOCA)
- Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol)
- Spasm of the heart arteries (Prinzmetal's angina)
- Microvascular angina (Disease of the small heart arteries)
- SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection)
- Post partum cardiomyopathy (Heart failure during pregnancy or following delivery)
Clinic staff and physicians
A major strength of the Women's Cardiovascular Medicine Program is the dedication and commitment of its staff to improving women's health. Clinical expertise among the program's Board Certified health care providers is extensive and encompasses all areas of cardiovascular disease.
“Listen very carefully to your body when it tells you that something is wrong. Even if it’s subtle, you know the changes are there. Don’t ignore them, but take steps right away to care for your heart.”
“Take the warning signs of heart disease seriously so you can be there for those who love you. Even small changes in how much you move and what you eat can make big differences in how you feel.”
“Because of the nature of my condition, it wasn't imperative that I change my diet. However, I do watch my hydrogenated oils now. I eat whole grains, tofu and lean turkey. I even wear more sunscreen.”
“You can't judge a book by its cover. Even though you might LOOK healthy, if you're not eating right, exercising or managing stress very well, you could still be a prime candidate for heart disease.”
How To Support Women's Heart Care
Houston, we have a problem and we need you help! Did you know:
- Heart disease is the leading killer of women, accounting for more deaths than in men every year, with deaths rising in younger women. We need to do more to help reduce heart disease deaths in women.
- Women remain unaware that heart disease is their leading health threat, falsely thinking they may be immune and that breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women. We need to do more to improve awareness for women.
- Health professional report discomfort with treating heart conditions in women. We need to better prepare health professionals to take care of women with heart disease.
- Heart disease in women remains underdiagnosedand under treated with worsened outcomes, particularly for under-represented groups. We need better models for addressing heart health disparities in women and vulnerable groups.
- There are important gender differences in heart disease that we need to better understand. We need more funding for research to undertand the causes, prevention and treatment of heart disease in women.
We need your help to make a difference and change these statistics! Help support our efforts by making a donation to the Women’s Cardiovascular Research Fund.
UC Davis Development officer Beth Abad highlights some of the reasons to consider donating to the Women's Program.
Education & Resources
Representatives from UC Davis Health demonstrate the correct way to perform hands only CPR.
Information about heart-healthy living
- 10 heart-healthy steps (PDF)
- Guide to low-sodium eating (PDF)
- Heart disease factsheet: Are you at risk for heart disease after a baby? (PDF)
- Heart-healthy recipes (PDF)
- Physical activity for heart health (PDF)
- Walking 10,000 steps a day (PDF)
- Tips for quitting smoking (PDF)
- The Heart Truth action plan (PDF)
Guidelines for reducing cardiovascular disease
- Know your numbers and the signs of heart attack (PDF)
- Know the risks and signs of stroke (PDF)
- Body Mass Index (BMI) chart (PDF)
Education for Health Professionals
Since 1995 the UC Davis Women's Cardiovascular Medicine Program has convened an annual Health of Women Conference (formerly Women’s Health Conference), a premiere interdisciplinary CME women’s health conference in the U.S. Featured are experts on a broad range of topics on the health of women across the lifespan. The 3-day educational conference for health care professionals is focused on promoting a comprehensive understanding of disease and health in women. Topics include disease risk factors, prevention, clinical presentation, treatments and outcomes of head to toe topics including cardiovascular, reproductive, mental, breast, and other health conditions in women, highlighting areas where women have unique disease features and outcomes. The target audience includes physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, dietitians, and pharmacist. The conference is typically held in May-June at a resort in California and strives to improve the care for women through education, awareness, and state of the art clinical practice. For additional details and to register, click here.
Our partners in women's heart health
Center for Women’s Cardiovascular and Brain Health
Women are more likely to develop dementia, die from cardiovascular disease (CVD), and have substantially more differential risk from CVD risk factors than men, but the bases for these differences, and rising disease toll, are poorly understood. Heart and brain health represent a lifetime of exposures and influences, and it is increasingly recognized that the same vascular risk factors that predispose to heart disease (unhealthy diet, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure) also compromise brain health.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of women and dementia the fourth leading cause of death for women. By working at the intersection of both cardiovascular disease and dementia, Dr. Villablanca, professor of cardiovascular medicine and director of the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program and the new award, leads a multidisciplinary team of cardiovascular basic scientists, neuro-pathologist, behavioral and population health scientists, and bioinformatics and computational scientists, in the new UC Davis Center for Women’s Cardiovascular and Brain Health.
The research center was established in 2022 and funded by a five-year $4 million award. It emphasizes the effects of vascular dementia and cardiovascular diseases on marginalized and diverse communities in California, and economically disadvantaged communities where UC Davis has a unique strength in its outreach and catchment area. This research has the unique potential for discovery of novel therapeutic targets for cardiovascular disease and dementia in women.
The UC Davis Center for Women’s Cardiovascular and Brain Health is one of four UC Davis Health programs funded as part of a $24 million award to UC Davis Health for women’s health research in breast cancer, dementia and cardiovascular disease. The UC Davis initiative is known as the HEAL-HER (Heart, BrEast and BrAin Heath Equity Research) Program. The Cardiovascular Disease Program, led by Villablanca, is a multidisciplinary team of UC Davis scientists participating in the new center conduct research to:
- Study the role of the overlapping risk factors for cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, and brain health related to sex and gender across the lifespan in under-represented women.
- Address the effect of the impending epidemic of dementia, and sex disparities in prevalence and death.
- Enhance our mechanistic understanding of fundamental molecular male-female differences in how CVD risk factors differentially affect the brain’s predisposition to vascular dementia.
The center is also focused on training the next generation of scientists who can be content experts in the field, and test and deploy new models of engagement to enhance the participation of women in clinical research studies.
UC Davis Red Dress Collection
As part of a unique partnership between the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program and the UC Davis Department of Design, fashion design students create a collection of red dresses to raise awareness that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. Each year in February, new designs are unveiled at the UC Davis Women’s Heart Care Education and Awareness Forum, which is held in Sacramento during National Heart Month. Click here to learn more about the program. Check our red dress collection by year below.