Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Heart Health and Women

Cardiac disease is an excellent example of sex/ gender health disparities. Cardiac disease is not unique in women - it is the number one killer of men and women in the US. Women fear dying of breast cancer, but die most of heart disease. So, how is it a disparity? Since 1984, more women have died of heart disease as compared to men (even though it occurs in men and usually ten years earlier!)

DIFFERENT EMPHASIS ON RISK FACTORS - The heart story does not focus on different risk factors - rather different importance in risk factors. For example, the ten year - or 'female advantage' in heart disease is lost if a women is a Diabetic. It's lost if she's a smoker. It's also gone when menses stops (surgically or naturally.)
DIFFERENT WAYS IT CAN PRESENT - Heart related diseases can present differently in women. Yes, women can have the 'classic' findings of obstructive heart disease as men - exertional chest pressure that radiates down the arm and is relieved with rest. But they can have other findings that may be viewed as atypical - yet are typical for women: unexplained fast heart beat (tachycardia); nausea; unexplained fatigue; inability to do housework or typical tasks (esp seen in elderly women) and even more alarming, 1 in 4 women may not have any complaints at all! Thus, we need to screen EVERYONE for heart risk (high, medium and low) and evaluate appropriately.
DIFFERENT THRESHOLDS TO PREVENT AND TREAT - Although, heart health awareness are creating change, women still have lower rates of screening for lipids and heart health as compared to their male counterparts. A well known study created vignettes of 'classic' cardiac symptoms and changed the ethnicity (white versus black) and gender. The scripts were exactly the same. Physicians most likely recommended cardiac catheterization to men over women patients. Another 2007 study found that physicians still intervene less with women and heart disease.
SO WHAT SHOULD WE DO? - Collectively and personally, we all need to be more aware of heart health risk factors - for clinicians as well as for patients be they children, men or women. Getting into the risk assessment habit (high, medium, low and optimal) for everyone helps overcome the selective focus of missing half of the population.

A Sampling of Great Web Resources
Our webpage (Women's Health Education Program)
Women’s Health Initiative
 DHHS Office of Women’s Health
 Food information planning site Mypyramid.gov Want to know how many calories you eat? What's in the food that you love? Check this site out.
Society for Women’s Health Research
The Heart Truth: Resources for health professionals (videos of patients; patient cases and slides)
 NHBLI: National Heart Blood Lung Institute (great resources on heart health)
 Video on taking a heart health history and the role of gender and ethnicity in heart health risk
Gender and Ethnic Medicine Cardiac Disease and Women

IOM Report Sex Matters 2001 Evidence based report highlighting the difference that sex/gender makes in health.
Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2010 Update, American Heart Association. A ton of great graphs and info here.
HRSA Women's Databook - each years data book has useful health information on various topics.
 -Sentinel article on heart health and women  Evidence-based guidelines for cardiovascular disease prevention in women L Mosca, LJ Appel, EJ Benjamin, K Berra, N … - Circulation, 2004
-CDC BMI Online Calculator


  1. Aside from this site, people can also visit WomensHealthNet.org. The site particularly focuses on women's health.


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  3. If you are health conscious and want to keep your heart healthy then drink Cranberry Juice. You can make its juice at home or purchase the product from us. Read this article to understand why Cranberry is important for heart - Cranberry Juice for Heart

  4. I think you have mentioned a great way to protect our heart. It is well known fact that many people are dying due to heart related problems like heart attacks and heart stork. According to study women are more likely to get heart related problems. That’s why women are always suggested to do some physical activities to stay fit like yoga, exercise and many more. I am also a woman and I always read health tips for women which you have mentioned in your article. Health and fitness tips are also an amazing way to stay healthy and keep our heart healthy.