Sentara Focuses on Matters of the Heart for February

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By Helena Tavares Kennedy

Sponsored by Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center

February is the month of love, of Valentines, roses, chocolates, and telling the ones you love how much they mean to you. The heart is at the heart of February, and Sentara is celebrating it with a Red Dress Luncheon on Feb. 28 to raise awareness of heart disease and heart health, especially in women.

The Red Dress event will be held at Matchbox Restaurant in Woodbridge from 11:30 a. m. – 1:30 p. m. and 100% of all donations go to the American Heart Association. In addition to lunch, door prizes and information about women’s heart health, attendees can hear presentations and have a panel discussion with cardiology providers from Sentara about the heart.

According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, causing about one in every four female deaths. But two cardiologists, who are also sisters, are hoping to see those numbers decrease with increased awareness about prevention and screening before symptoms even develop in order to save women’s lives.

Dr. Aysha Arshad and Dr. Rabia Arshad, both cardiologists, are the co-keynote speakers for the upcoming Red Dress Luncheon on Feb. 28. Dr. Aysha Arshad is a Cardiac Electrophysiologist who focuses on minimally invasive procedures to treat arrhythmias and other complex heart problems. Dr. Rabia Arshad is a non-invasive cardiologist who focuses on early identification and intervention.

heart health, Sentara

Dr. Rabia Arshad

“Cardiovascular disease is no longer the death sentence it used to be,” said Dr. Rabia Arshad. “There are a great deal of interesting interventions, risk assessments, and new therapies out there and cardiology is one of the most optimistic medical fields today.”

The problem, however, is that women in particular were being left out of these tremendous steps forward. “Women tend to present with symptoms late compared to men, and with atypical symptoms, so they haven’t been diagnosed as early as men,” said Dr. Rabia Arshad. “We have a responsibility as doctors to be looking for it in women patients more closely, and get the word out to women to get screened and be more aware of what atypical symptoms might look like.”

heart health, Sentara

Dr. Aysha Arshad

When someone is diagnosed with heart disease, Dr. Aysha Arshad is very optimistic and said, “We have the power to change someone’s life with minimally invasive procedures now. And patients can expect to lead a full and well-rounded life that otherwise may not have happened.”

While women are underrepresented in trials related to heart health, Dr. Aysha Arshad said women benefit greatly from interventional cardiac procedures, often enjoying the same or greater success rates as men. The future of cardiology is exciting with a wide array of recent innovations like better blood thinners and heart failure medications, improved imaging, hybrid ablation procedures to treat arrhythmias, the Watchman procedure to prevent strokes and the leadless pacemaker (MICRA) that is the size of a silver dollar and lasts 10-12 years, just to name a few. Both doctors are very optimistic about the future of heart health.

Top tips from the sister cardiologists for a healthier heart include:

  • Knowing your risk factors (smoking, family history, diabetes, etc.) and treating underlying diseases like diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea so they are less impactful on the heart
  • Knowing your numbers (blood pressure, sugar, BMI, cholesterol, body weight, etc.)
  • Focusing on a healthy diet and exercise, and if that is not enough for some, to be able to ask if you need more than that.
  • Being self-aware, noticing when things don’t feel right, and talking to your doctor right away about it.


Sentara is a progressive and integrated healthcare organization with various locations in Prince William County. They are dedicated to providing leading medical experts, advanced technology and continuous innovation to improve health every day. To find a doctor, call 1-800-Sentara or visit


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