Women's heart health
February is known as American Heart Month, and this year it is even more near and dear to my mission. As a nominee for the American Heart Association’s Women of Impact initiative, I am teaming up with women across the nation to increase awareness of women’s heart disease and raise money to improve research and education to better identify, diagnose, treat and prevent cardiovascular disease in women.
February 2024 marks the 20th anniversary of the Association’s Go Red for Women movement, as well as the American Heart Association’s 100th anniversary. However, to this day, cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of women. In fact, in 2016, Ohio was ranked 13th in the U.S. for highest rates of death due to heart disease.
Unfortunately, despite the amazing work that Go Red has been doing for two decades, heart disease still kills more women each year than all forms of cancers combined, including what most people assume is the number one killer of women, breast cancer.
So how do we change these misconceptions? Go Red for Women, the Menopause Society, physicians, and advocates alike aim to increase the visibility of heart disease in women at the community level, which is a start. However, long term changes need to make their way into medical education, also.
Educating physicians and other clinicians that women have different risks of heart disease than men, is crucial to this change. For example, studies have demonstrated that conditions such as migraines, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, PCOS, early menopause, and autoimmune conditions are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. However, there is no current risk assessment model that takes these factors into consideration. This is a major disservice to women globally.
For now, I ask that patients and community members advocate for investigating their cardiac risk if they carry some of these risk factors. The more patients and physicians advocating for change, the likelier it is to occur.
With the new White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research, I hope that women’s heart health receives the focus it so desperately deserves. Because despite laws passing in 1993 mandating women be enrolled equally in medical research, only 38% of the participants in cardiovascular research studies in 2020 were women.
How can we change this? Currently, the White House is still accepting recommendations for topics of research and other commentary. You can find this at WhiteHouse.gov or send an email to WomensHealthResearch@who.eop.gov, urging our representatives to include women’s cardiovascular health to their areas of focus.
Additionally, you can visit goredforwomen.org to get involved by donating, volunteering, or even just perusing the information to share with your loved ones and clinicians.
The more awareness we bring to women’s cardiovascular disease, the closer we come to beating it.