Shahzad Ahmed decided he wanted to become a doctor early in life. His younger
brother, sick with rheumatic fever, got well after medical treatment and
the 11-year old Shahzad knew he had found his calling. “I wanted
to help other people, the way that doctor helped my brother,” he says.
Dr. Ahmed, now a board-certified cardiologist who joined Lower Bucks Hospital’s
Cardiology Practice in August 2019, grew up in Pakistan and received his
medical education at Allama Iqbal Medical College in Lahore. “It
is difficult to get into medical school in Pakistan,” Dr. Ahmed
says. “The schools are run by the government and there are many
more students than there is room.” In his case, he was one of 75,000
students vying for only 1,500 spots.
After graduation from medical school, Dr. Ahmed continued his studies at
Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia with a residency
in internal medicine as well as training in interventional cardiology.
He was subsequently appointed Assistant Professor of Medicine at Drexel.
Interventional cardiology is a subspecialty of cardiology that uses specialized
imaging and other diagnostic techniques to evaluate blood flow and pressure
in the coronary arteries and chambers of the heart, as well as using technical
procedures and medications to treat abnormalities of the cardiovascular
system. “My uncle is an interventional cardiologist,” Dr.
Ahmed says. “I saw from a young age the difference that this specialty
can make in people’s lives.”
In addition to his family ties, Dr. Ahmed’s decision to specialize
in cardiology was driven by the prevalence of heart disease, which is
the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and
ethnic groups in the United States. According the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), about 647,000 Americans die from heart disease
each year—about 1 in every 4 deaths. (Cancer is a close second,
with about 600,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.)
In his 16 years of practice, Dr. Ahmed has seen many changes in the approach
to heart-related procedures. One example is “revascularization,”
in which blood flow is restored to a blocked artery. “Fifteen years
ago, this was typically done via open-heart surgery,” Dr. Ahmed
says. “Now, we can achieve the same results with stents, a much
more minimally invasive procedure.” Stents are small, thin slotted
tubes of metal that are placed in the blocked artery through a catheter
inserted into the groin or arm.
Another example is aortic valve replacement, a treatment for “stenosis”
(a narrowing of the aortic valve). Open-heart surgery, in which the valve
is replaced after the surgeon makes an incision in the chest and spreads
the ribs to expose the heart, is still a common approach. However, there
is a less-invasive technique that may be an option for some people: the
surgeon makes a smaller incision in the chest and doesn’t spread
the ribs (this approach works because the aortic valve is located near
the front of the chest). There is even a method that doesn’t require
surgery at all: in a transcatheter aortic valve replacement, the valve
is replaced through a blood vessel.
Dr. Ahmed is keenly aware of another welcomed trend. He says, “The
medications to treat conditions that can cause heart disease—such
as high blood pressure and high cholesterol—have gotten better and
better. As a result, fewer people are developing serious cardiovascular
At the time Dr. Ahmed joined Lower Bucks Hospital, Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Ronak Bhimani said, “The addition of Dr. Ahmed to our team means
that our community now has local, convenient access to the specialty services
of a full-time cardiologist. We are delighted to partner with such an
experienced physician to bring interventional cardiology care back to
Lower Bucks County and the surrounding areas.”
Dr. Ahmed is equally delighted. He finds the hospital’s investment
in and commitment to the community to be unique. “We provide a wide
range of cardiology services, from the simple to the complex,” he
says. “We have a team approach to the heart health of the community,
through the care provided by interventional cardiologists, general surgeons,
vascular surgeons and wound care specialists.”
Additionally, Lower Bucks Hospital will soon be offering amputation-prevention
services. While limb amputation is most closely associated with diabetes,
it is also linked to peripheral arterial disease, a narrowing or blockage
of arteries that causes poor blood flow to legs or arms.
Partnering with his patients is a cornerstone of Dr. Ahmed’s care
philosophy. “I have the opportunity to empower patients to improve
their health through the practice of quality medicine and healthy lifestyle
changes,” he says.
To that goal, Dr. Ahmed has guidance for the community. “People need
to begin watching their heart health at a much younger age than they may
think,” he says. “The American Heart Association recommends
that everyone age 20 or older have their cholesterol, glucose, and blood
pressure checked regularly. It’s also important that people work
with their doctor to determine their risk for cardiovascular disease and
As is universally accepted by the medical community and the general public,
a healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of heart-related (and other) conditions.
Experts say there are four behaviors that define a healthy lifestyle:
a good diet, moderate exercise, a recommended body fat percentage, and
being a non-smoker.
Dr. Ahmed embraces the “Mediterranean” diet, characterized by:
• High quantities of vegetables, such as tomatoes, kale, broccoli,
spinach, carrots, cucumbers, and onions
• Fresh fruit, such as apples, bananas, figs, dates, grapes, and melons
• High consumption of legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds, such as almonds,
walnuts, sunflower seeds, and cashews
• Whole grains such as whole wheat, oats, barley, buckwheat, corn,
and brown rice
• Olive oil as the main source of dietary fat, along with olives,
avocados, and avocado oil
• Cheese and yogurt as the main dairy foods, including Greek yogurt
• Moderate amounts of fish and poultry, such as chicken, duck, turkey,
salmon, sardines, and oysters
• Moderate amount of eggs, including chicken, quail, and duck eggs
• Very limited red meats.
• Very limited sweets.
• Water as the main beverage. And no sweetened drinks at all.
For heathy adults, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS)
recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes
of vigorous aerobic activity each week (or a combination of moderate and
vigorous activity). The guidelines also suggest that this exercise be
spread out during the course of the week—for example, 30 minutes
of moderate aerobic activity 5 days a week.
Moderate aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, water
aerobics, gardening, playing doubles tennis, and biking slower than 10
miles per hour. Vigorous aerobic exercise includes running, swimming laps,
heavy yardwork, playing singles tennis, biking 10 miles per hour or faster,
and jumping rope.
Under Dr. Ahmed’s leadership Lower Bucks Hospital has started a number
of new programs, including “radial artery access” for cardiac
catherization. In plain English, this means the catheter is inserted into
an artery in the wrist, rather than the groin, which is more comfortable
for patients and reduces bleeding at the puncture site.
Lower Bucks Hospital is a community hospital, serving the Lower Bucks County
region with medical, surgical, and emergency care. Located in historic
Bristol, Pennsylvania, the Hospital is well-known for its knowledgeable
medical staff, including cardiology, orthopedics, sports medicine, radiology,
and general surgery.
Dr. Ahmed is accepting new patients at Lower Buck’s Hospital Cardiology
Practice, located at 501 Bath Road in Bristol. For more information or
to schedule an appointment, please call 215-785-5100.
Maria Canfield is a local freelance writer and the co-founder of Your Words
Your Story, a memoir and pet-tribute creation service.