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Gender Matters: Heart Disease in Women

gender matters: heart disease in women

By: Sarina Sachdev, MD

Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a man’s disease, almost as many women as men die each year of heart disease in the United States.

This map shows death rates from heart disease in women in the United States. The darker red indicates a higher death rate.

Heart disease hitmap

More than 9 million American women of all ages and ethnicity suffer from CVD. Despite the monumental efforts and great progress made by researchers, scientists, and health professionals in the prevention, identification, and treatment of CVD, more than a half a million women each year continue to die of the disease, while the total number of male deaths continues to decline. Moreover, minority women continue to bear the brunt of the burden of CVD. Health care professionals who speak to women about primary and secondary prevention clearly realize that most women think heart disease belongs “out in the garage” with the power tools. While a recent survey showed that about a third of women identify heart disease as the number one killer, only 7 percent felt they were personally at risk. For women survivors today, in all walks of life, heart disease remains a very difficult issue to air publicly, because it is not generally recognized as a major cause of morbidity and mortality in women. Health care professionals should not forget that motivating women to become better caretakers of themselves and better consumers of health care is only part of a complex equation.

Heart disease model

Campaign by the Heart Research UK challenging the misperception that heart disease is a “man’s disease”.

Women are less likely than men to receive medical treatment for high cholesterol, less likely to get life-saving drugs to prevent complications of a heart attack, and less likely to enter into a cardiac rehabilitation program. The importance of improving women’s access to good risk management care through their gynecologists or primary care physicians cannot be overestimated.

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