Women and Heart Disease: Caught Red-Handed!

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported the results of a survey of 1,011 American women (25 to 60 years old) and 200 primary care physicians.  Here are some of the findings.

  1. Only 45% of the women knew cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer in the U.S. (Note:  It’s the #1 killer of women andmen).
  2. 45% of women also reported that it was not unusual for them to cancel or postpone a doctor’s appointment until losing weight.
  3. Only 39% of the primary care physicians made cardiovascular disease a top concern for their female patients, after weight and breast health, and only 22% felt well prepared to assess cardiovascular risk.

The first finding is not a surprise, especially if you know about National Wear Red Day, a day in February observed for over 14 years to bring national attention to the leading killers of women – heart disease and stroke.  For sure, we need to continue to raise this awareness.

The second finding caught me red-handed. Yes, I am one of those women who puts off seeing the doctor because I just want to get a few pounds off first. Of course, this inevitably makes for less frequent visits to the doctor, which is not necessarily a good thing. This survey also showed that 25% of women assumed their heart risk was only linked to weight, which is a myth. As the American Heart Association mentions at goredforwomen.org, women should focus on “heart health numbers, not dress size.”  That way more women (like me) will not put off a visit to the doctor.

Whereas public health campaigns can help educate women on the extent of cardiovascular disease and its causes, physician education and training are needed to turn around the problems noted in the third finding. Thankfully, the physicians who participated in the survey fully supported more physician education, and more research on women’s cardiovascular disease, which is desperately needed.