Meet Dr. Sadiya S. Khan: Her Heart is for Women’s Cardiovascular and Maternal Health

Jul 6, 2022 | Main Blog | 0 comments

Her Nexx Chapter is pleased to introduce Dr. Sadiya Khan, a panelist participating in the upcoming educational event, Red Alert: A Conversation About HER Health.

An Assistant Professor of Medicine and Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University and staff cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine, Dr. Khan received her medical degree from the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in 2009. She completed her internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois in 2012 and served as Chief Medical Resident from 2012 to 2013. Dr. Khan then completed her fellowship training in cardiovascular disease from 2013 to 2017 at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Particularly interested in sex-specific disparities that arise in pregnancy and early menopause, Dr. Khan has received multiple awards for excellence in research, teaching, and patient care.

Academic Focus

Dr. Khan’s academic focus is the epidemiology of and risk for heart failure. Using population-based cohorts, large electronic health record data analysis, and -OMICS (epigenomics, genomics, and proteomics) she researches risk prediction and novel therapeutic agents for prevention and treatment approaches for heart failure. She translates research into clinical practice to improve cardiovascular outcomes and care on an individual level and population level.

Clinical Focus

Dr. Khan sees patients with a variety of cardiovascular diseases to discuss preventive strategies before the development of cardiovascular diseases. She’s also interested in practicing precision or personalized medicine with a particular focus on the utility of genetic testing and risk communication with patients who are at risk for cardiomyopathy, arrhythmia, and vascular disorders. As a staff cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine and a member of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Center, Dr. Khan serves on the inpatient cardiology consult service and conducts ambulatory clinic sessions.

Poor Heart Health Before Pregnancy

In February of 2022, Dr. Khan was quoted in an article “Most People Giving Birth in the U.S. Have Poor Heart Health Prior to Pregnancy,” published in Go Red for Women, a special issue of the American Heart Association’s peer-reviewed, flagship journal Circulation. The article revealed only 40% of women in the U.S. who gave birth in 2019 had good heart health before their pregnancy. Excess weight was the major contributor to poor pre-pregnancy health, followed by hypertension and diabetes.

The Go Red for Women article highlighted geographic differences in heart health for women, noting it was poorer in states in the South and Midwest compared with those in the West and Northeast. The geographical differences were impacted by education level, Medicaid enrollment, access to preventive care, and the availability of healthy foods.

“These geographic patterns are, unfortunately, very similar to what we see for heart disease and stroke in both men and women, and they indicate that social determinants of health play a critical role in maternal heart health as well,” Dr. Khan states. “In addition to optimizing health for those interested in becoming pregnant, it’s important to focus on optimizing cardiovascular health throughout young adulthood because nearly half of pregnancies are unplanned. We need to emphasize heart health across the lifespan.”

Equitable Access to Care

The research highlighted in the Go Red for Women article emphasizes that the healthier a woman is before, during, and after her pregnancy, the healthier she and her baby will be. The researchers hope their findings will lead to critical changes in public health policy to support women during and after pregnancy.

“We need to shift the conversation from solely ‘what can women do’ to what can society do to support mothers and pregnant individuals,” Dr. Khan said. “We need federal and state-level public health policies that ensure there is equitable access to care before, during, and after pregnancy, as well as an economic investment in communities to support healthy behaviors, such as green spaces for exercise and access to heart-healthy food choices.”

Health Inequities Created by Police Violence

Dr. Khan has also participated in research linking police complaints with hospital records. The outcome of this research suggests the stress created by police misconduct in the neighborhoods of Black women may contribute to problems in utero which have important implications throughout life for women and their children.

Black women are over 50% more likely to deliver preterm as compared with white women, and despite multiple efforts, interventions have generally been unable to narrow this gap. A Northwestern study conducted by Dr. Khan and other researchers, published in Science Advances, examined how police conduct can impact the health of women in Black communities. Experts in psychology, sociology, epidemiology, anthropology, and medicine contributed to this research, which suggested police violence adversely affects the health of Black women.

Early Menopause and Heart Disease

Dr. Khan’s research interests include the impact early onset of menopause has on heart health. Premature menopause has been linked to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) according to research studies, particularly among Black women.

Dr. Khan’s research on women’s health in midlife was highlighted in a TCTMD article published in 2021. “To me, what it says is that we need to start even earlier with prevention measures. If somebody goes through menopause early, we need to be paying extra close attention to blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and other risk factors for heart disease,” Dr. Khan noted.

An excited advocate for women at every stage of life, Dr. Khan looks forward to joining fellow panelists for Red Alert: A Conversation About HER Health. In addition to her research interests, she’ll address the importance of nonclinical policies in women’s health outcomes. Quoted last year in an article in U. S. News, she stressed the importance of solutions outside the walls of health systems.

“It is also important to better understand how non-traditional risk factors like stress contribute, especially in the midst of the pandemic,” Dr. Khan said when asked about a recent rise in gestational diabetes. “Identifying community-level interventions as well as state and national policies to improve health before, during, and after pregnancy is critical to improving the health of our nation, not just for the pregnant woman, but also her child over the life course.”

Dr. Khan would like to personally invite you to watch RED ALERT! A Conversation about HER Health, a virtual summit about uterine fibroids and the women whose lives they impact, based on the upcoming documentary Red Alert: The Fight Against Fibroids directed by Erica L. Taylor. You won’t want to miss this!

Her Nexx Chapter is a strategic alliance of the American Heart Association working to advance health equity and ensure all Americans have an opportunity for a fuller, healthier life.

Kim Bundy

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