Viewpoints (The Heart Doctors): Being Smart Is Not Enough. Be Heart Smart.
Women's health needs are different from those of men. A growing body of evidence proves that everything about women's and men's bodies are different, from the structure of their organs to how they function and respond to therapies. Not surprising, really, but still a surprise to many doctors.
Nowhere are these differences more glaring than when it comes to heart disease. Women have their own unique risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure or preeclampsia during pregnancy, and they are not always recognized. Furthermore, women don't always get what we think of as the "usual" heart attack symptoms. While some have the chest pains typical for men, which many describe as the feeling of an elephant sitting on their chest, women may have symptoms that are more subtle and less recognizable, such as jaw pain or fatigue. These can easily be dismissed as the flu, stress or feeling under the weather.
Thankfully, a new model of women's health care is rapidly emerging, and with it an approach to women's heart health that aims to eradicate the disparities that now exist between care for women and care for men.
We embrace that model, which we helped found. We recognized, after years of practice, that good health is not a given, and that sex matters when it comes to heart health. We learned the bad news--that more than ninety per cent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease. But we also learned the good news--that seventy five to eighty per cent of that risk can be modified, which means that a woman's heart health is in her hands--regardless of her age. It is never too early or too late to adopt health habits that lessen risk.
We also learned that there are lots of well educated women out there who are unaware of these facts.
So we decided to author a book, "Heart Smart for Women," which offers an informative, clear roadmap, designed specifically for women, to guide them on the road to heart health. The book outlines a six step program that equips women of all ages with a comprehensive approach for heart healthy living. It is call to action for women everywhere, and the message is a positive one: Heart disease is preventable. To get you started, have a look at our Twitter page, #HeartSmartMovement, @GetHeartSmart.
Take control of your heart health.
Drs. Stacey E. Rosen and Jennifer H. Mieres are cardiologists with decades of experience caring for women with heart disease. They are now at Northwell Health's Katz Institute for Women's Health. Each of them is passionate about recognizing the distinct health needs of women, and empowering women with information and resources to optimize their health and well-being.