Talking with Cardiologist L. Veronica Lee, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, is all about stopping worrying about the diet/exercise/motivation conundrum of modern life, especially if you’re a middle-aged person. who drives everywhere, eats on the go and tends to relax in front of the television. A 10-minute conversation with Lee leaves a reassuring impression that things might not be so complicated after all.
In 15 years as a doctor, Lee has seen fad diets come and go, but good health, she says, depends on balance. And while the low-carb trend of the past few years may have helped many people lose weight, it seems to Lee that most of them gain it back over time.
“The reality is that we need to have a well-balanced diet. You can go for short-term gains, but if you mess your system up, the results are likely to be short-lived as well,” says Lee, who sees patients four days a week at Yale Medical Group. (YMG) practices at Yale-New Haven Shoreline Medical Center in Guilford and Fridays in New Haven. “Ultimately, you need a lifestyle that you can live with in order to reach your goal and maintain it. This is how people achieve the most success.
Educated at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard School of Public Health, and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Lee arrived at Yale in September from St. Petersburg and West Palm Beach, Florida, where she practiced cardiology for three years and developed prevention strategies.
Lee’s focus of research – and the driving force behind his work with patients – is prevention. Ideally, Lee wants to help patients avoid cardiovascular disease altogether, but she also strives to prevent its recurrence in patients who have suffered a heart attack. And she is particularly interested in preventing heart disease in women.
“Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women; strokes and heart attacks are very big contributors to mortality in women, and the numbers have been going up,” said Lee, Fellow of the American College of Cardiology. “Men are getting earlier, better and more aggressive treatment. They reduce their tobacco consumption, they exercise more than women. Women are lagging behind in exercise and we are seeing an increase in smoking. The rate of heart disease in women is on the rise.
According to the American Heart Association, more women than men have died from cardiovascular disease – a category that includes coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes – every year since. 1984.
In her practice, Lee helps patients set nutritional goals and develops personalized diet and exercise plans to reduce disease risk. “For everyone, there are different ways to get off the couch and eat the good stuff,” she says. “I try to gauge which approach will work for a particular person.”
Lee is part of a new influx of Yale doctors at the Shoreline Center, an 80,000-square-foot facility off Interstate 95 that opened in July 2004. YMG, the 700-member medical school , manages the center’s emergency department and its anesthesiology. , diagnostic imaging, pathology, laboratory medicine and radiation oncology. Now specialists in cardiovascular medicine, pediatric cardiology and surgical specialties – including urology, cardiothoracic surgery, hand, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery – spend one or more days a week at Guilford for the convenience of patients who live east of New Haven.
For Lee, whose exam room window overlooks a grove of oak trees, the Shoreline Center provides the perfect setting to deliver his prevention message. “The environment is a key point,” she says. “If it’s a beautiful and calming place, it creates a warmer and more nurturing environment that goes along with the whole notion of prevention.”
Lee’s hopeful outlook would also be soothing to any patient letting go of old entrenched habits on the sometimes difficult road to a healthy lifestyle. “There is no failure,” she said. “If you slip, you get up and keep trying.”