Our Research

The Women's Heart Center is committed to advancing the understanding of heart disease and vascular disease in women. Our cross-disciplinary research aims to identify social, economic, environmental, and political factors that influence women’s health in an effort to improve cardiovascular disease outcomes.

Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy

Hypertension (elevated blood pressure) during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of complications for mother and child. Women whose pregnancies are affected by hypertension, including preeclampsia, are also at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Research at the Women's Heart Center involves better understanding, monitoring, and treatment of women during pregnancy. If you are seeking treatment for pregnancy-associated hypertension disorders, or are interested in enrolling in research studies evaluating blood pressure measurement during pregnancy, contact the Women's Heart Center for more information about ongoing studies.

Sleep and Cardiovascular Risk

The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Research Network awarded Columbia a grant to evaluate sleep patterns and cardiovascular risk. A team of collaborative physician scientists are conducting a rigorous trial documenting sleep patterns and vascular mechanisms of risk. Population science investigator, Brooke Aggarwal, EdD, MS, CHES is enrolling women to investigate the relationship between sleep patterns, innovative biomarkers, and outcomes. Key findings reveal that women are especially vulnerable to sleep problems during specific time periods of their lives including pregnancy, new motherhood, menopause, and post-menopause.

Moreover, the Aggarwal lab is now engaged in the American Heart Association Research Goes Red weight study to determine links between weight changes and novel physiologic and behavioral outcomes related to cardiovascular disease. They are interested to learn if associations vary among women undergoing the menopausal transition versus those who remain pre- and-or post-menopausal.  The menopausal transition period may represent a critical window for improving cardiovascular risk among women. Strategies to support prevention of weight gain and/or achievement of a healthy weight during this transition are warranted to prevent the development of cardiovascular disease. Questions about the study and/or ongoing enrollment may be directed to Dr. Brooke Aggarwal in the Division of Cardiology.

Heart Health in Action

Excess morbidity and mortality secondary to heart disease and stroke is a reality for all women and, in particular, minority women. Elsa-Grace Giardina, MD, MS and colleagues direct Heart Health in Action, a database composed of the women living and working in Washington Heights-Inwood and supported by funding from the Office of Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and donors. The project has screening, education, and awareness; behavior modification; and tracking and evaluation components.

Atrial Fibrillation in Women

Atrial fibrillation is the most common rhythm disturbance in adults; moreover, there are gender-specific differences. For example, women are more symptomatic from shortness of breath and palpitations, they tend to develop heart failure, and they have increased risk of developing dementia, reduced cognition, and complications from stroke. Elaine Wan, MD, is currently studying gender specific differences in atrial fibrillation.

Dr. Wan and her team recently received an NIH R03 grant to study a mouse model of atrial fibrillation’s effect on cognition. They found a significant difference between female and male mice. Male mice had a higher frequency of atrial fibrillation and increased impairment in learning new tasks. Although the female mice had lower frequency of atrial fibrillation than the male mice, they also had impairment in memory and learning new tasks when compared to mice who have a normal rhythm.