In March 2010 I had Open Heart surgery to repair my aortic valve. It was a tremendous success and less than a year later; I'm happy to report my heart and my health is is perfect working condition. I believe that we must all "pay it forward" when given the opportunity. So in an effort to promote heart health in women and people of color, I have become The American Heart Association's National Volunteer. My commitment is to expanding awareness of the mission of the Heart Association as it relates to women and people of color.
Today we focus on Going Red for Women!
Women and Cardiovascular Disease Facts
(provided by The American Heart Association)
More women die from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases (CVD) than men, yet many women do not realize they are at risk. These diseases kill more women each year than the next five causes of death combined.
The contributing factors for this epidemic include:
Lack of knowledge
Women and their healthcare providers do not know the biggest healthcare threat to women is heart disease. A 2006 survey conducted by the American Heart Association found that 43 percent of women are unaware that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women.
Although women of color and of low socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by heart disease — the death rate was 28 percent higher for black women than for white women in 20051 — only 31 percent of black women and 29 percent of Hispanic women knew that heart disease was their greatest health risk, compared to 68 percent among white women.
Among primary care physicians, only 8 percent knew that more women than men die each year from CVD.
Many women do not recognize the warning signs or symptoms of heart disease and stroke, which may be more subtle than those exhibited by men. Lack of awareness often results in less aggressive and sophisticated diagnosis and treatment by women's health care providers, with worse outcomes.
Researchers have learned that gender differences play an important role in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of CVD. Heart attack symptoms may present differently in women than in men6 and they may also respond differently to cardiac medications
Although chest pain is the most common heart attack warning sign in both men and women, women may be less likely than men to report chest pain during a heart attack and more likely to report other symptoms, often resulting in misdiagnosis and delays in treatment.
Women tend to develop CVD later in life than men, and their outcomes are often worse. An exception is women smokers, who die of a heart attack caused by smoking earlier than men.
Women with acute coronary syndrome are more likely to have adverse outcomes, including death, heart attack, stroke, or rehospitalization, even after adjusting for age differences.
Previous studies and clinical trials have often been done with inadequate numbers of women in the study population, and thus their conclusions do not always apply to women. Women represent just 38 percent of subjects in NIH-funded cardiovascular studies. In addition; three-fourths of cardiovascular clinical trials do not report sex-specific results, making it difficult for researchers and clinicians to draw conclusions about their effects on women.
Researchers have identified gender differences in response to cardiac medications. Drugs that are beneficial for men may even be harmful to women. For example, the drug digoxin used to treat patients with heart failure was associated with an increased risk of death among women but not among men.
Diagnosis and Treatment Disparities
Women are less likely than men to receive aggressive diagnosis and treatment for CVD.
Women who are at risk for CVD are often not referred for diagnostic testing that would be standard in men.
Among Medicare patients, men are two to three times more likely than women to receive an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator for the prevention of sudden cardiac death.
Only about 31 percent of all percutaneous coronary interventions, with and without stent insertions, were performed on women in 2005.
Note: This information is also available in a downloadable pdf format.