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Massachusetts Women’s Legislative Caucus Women and Heart Disease. Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Who We Are. Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Women’s Health Policy and Advocacy Program

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massachusetts women s legislative caucus women and heart disease

Massachusetts Women’s Legislative Caucus Women and Heart Disease

Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

who we are
Who We Are

Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital

  • Women’s Health Policy and Advocacy Program
  • Center for Cardiovascular Disease in Women
why heart disease
Why heart disease?
  • Heart disease is the leading killer of women in Massachusetts and the United States
  • Women experience heart disease differently from men, but these differences are not well understood
  • By taking measures to prevent heart disease, women can protect themselves from a whole host of chronic illnesses
women heart disease 1936
Women & heart disease - 1936

“Mistaken diagnoses of coronary artery disease in women are common because of the erroneous interpretation of symptoms, such as precordial pain with or without radiation to the left arm, a sense of choking, and fear of death. Such symptoms are common in the absence of organic heart disease.” - Levy and Boas. JAMA 1936

women heart disease 2004
Women & heart disease - 2004
  • Half of all U.S. women will die of heart disease or stroke
  • Heart disease claims the lives of more women than the next seven causes of death combined
  • Significant racial and ethnic disparities exist among women
  • Only 13% of US women believe that heart disease and stroke are their greatest health threats
differences between women men
Differences between women & men
  • More women than men die each year from heart attacks – and the gap is growing
  • Women tend to get heart disease later in life
  • Women are, on average, ten years older than men at the time of their first heart attack
  • Women are much more likely to die from their first heart attack than men
  • Women can experience different symptoms of heart attack than men
why are there differences
Why are there differences?
  • Do women delay going to the hospital because they don’t recognize their symptoms?
  • Are health care providers not recognizing women’s symptoms or treating the symptoms less aggressively?
  • Do medications or treatments for heart attacks have different affects on women?

We still have more questions than answers

prevention the key to heart health
Prevention: The Key to Heart Health

Approximately 80% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented by modifying preventable risk factors including…

cigarette smoking

being overweight or obese

lack of physical activity

diabetes

high blood pressure

high cholesterol

smoking
Smoking
  • Tobacco is responsible for 17% of all female deaths in the U.S.
  • Smoking is the most preventable risk factor for heart attack
  • Women who smoke one to four cigarettes per day are at almost twice as likely to develop heart disease than nonsmokers
  • A woman who smokes is at risk for heart attack 19 years earlier than one who does not smoke
  • Women of all ages who quit smoking greatly reduce their risk of dying prematurely
women girls tobacco
Women, girls & tobacco
  • Tobacco companies market to women and girls by
    • creating brands and types of cigarettes specifically for women and girls
    • suggesting that smoking will make women & girls feel attractive, slim & less stressed
    • advancing the myth that low-tar, low-nicotine brands are less harmful
  • Smoking accounts for an estimated $4.4 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity in Massachusetts
overweight obesity
Overweight & Obesity
  • Obesity is a widespread, disabling, and costly risk factor for heart disease.
  • The number of excessively heavy adults in MA increased 30% from 1990 to 2000
  • In MA, black and Hispanic women experience the highest rates of overweight and obesity
  • Women with low education and incomes have higher rates of overweight and obesity
  • The percentage of overweight children has doubled over the past 20 years. Overweight children are 10 times more likely to be overweight as adults
estimated percent of americans 18 years who report no leisure time activity

Physical Activity

Estimated Percent of Americans 18 Years Who Report No Leisure-time Activity

1991: National Health Interview Survey

2000: Heart & Stroke Facts AHA

diabetes
Diabetes

Adjusted Risk of Heart Attack among

Diabetic vs. Non-Diabetic Adults

Davidson MB. Diabetes Mellitus: Diagnosis and Treatment. 4th ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders; 1998.

high blood pressure
High Blood Pressure
  • High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, greatly increases the chances of developing cardiovascular diseases, and it is the most important risk factor for stroke. Even slightly high levels double your risk.
  • More than half of American women will develop high blood pressure at some point in their lives.
cholesterol
Cholesterol
  • Low blood levels of "good“ cholesterol (high density lipoprotein or HDL) appears to be a stronger predictor of heart disease death in women than in men in the over 65 age group
  • High blood levels of triglycerides (another type of fat) may be a particularly important risk factor in women and the elderly
stress depression
Stress & Depression

Stress may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease in women for a number of reasons

  • Occupational factors: lower-level jobs with greater job strain, low pay, and unequal
  • Economic factors: More women live in poverty than men and may have fewer environmental resources for support

Depression - the most common psychological disorder among women – has also been found to increase the risk of heart disease

symptoms
Symptoms
  • Early recognition of warning symptoms is critical to reducing death from heart disease, since interventions are most effective within six hours after a heart attack.
  • Almost half of women having a heart attack do not experience “typical” heart disease symptoms
  • Symptoms among women include indigestion, unexplained weakness and fatigue, sleeplessness, or shortness of breath
  • Women experiencing symptoms of a heart attack are more likely to delay going to the hospital than men
treatment
Treatment

Women are less likely than men to be:

  • Referred for some heart disease treatment procedures
  • Prescribed “clot-busting” therapies, aspirin and other medications after a heart attack
  • Referred for cardiac rehabilitation
racial and ethnic disparities
Racial and Ethnic Disparities

Black women:

  • Tend to develop heart disease at an earlier age and are more likely to die from heart disease than white women
  • Are less likely to receive appropriate preventive therapy and adequate risk factor control than white women
  • Are less likely to receive life-saving therapies after a heart attack than white women
the cost of cardiovascular disease cvd
The cost of cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • CVD costs the U.S. $368 billion in direct and indirect costs in 2003
  • CVD accounts for over half of all hospital charges in MA
  • The estimated incremental lifetime medical cost of treating a woman with CVD is almost 3½ times greater than treating a woman without CVD
what can you do personally
What can you do?- personally -
  • Reduce your risk for heart disease by keeping physically active, eating heart healthy foods, quitting smoking, and caring for your overall health
  • Make sure your doctor is evaluating your risk for heart disease with the newest female specific criteria developed by the American Heart Association
what can you do in your community
What can you do?- in your community -
  • Work to increase awareness that heart disease is the leading killer of women and that there are lifestyle changes women can make to reduce their risk
  • Create environments that contribute to our health – safe streets and parks to walk in and reduced exposed to secondhand smoke
what can you do to reduce smoking
What can you do?- to reduce smoking -
  • Work to restore funding for smoking prevention and cessation initiatives in Massachusetts
  • Advocate for health insurance coverage of smoking cessation aides
  • Combat marketing of smoking products to women and girls
  • Reduce access of minors to tobacco products
what can you do to reduce overweight and obesity
What can you do?- to reduce overweight and obesity -
  • Work to improve access to healthy food sources for low-income families
  • Increase the development and dissemination of culturally appropriate menus and meals
  • Promote healthy eating and physical activity in schools and workplaces
what can you do to improve heart care for women
What can you do?- to improve heart care for women -
  • Invest in research to learn more about the differences between men and women in relation to heart disease
  • Insure access to screening, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of heart disease for uninsured MA residents
  • Promote adoption of the American Heart Association’s guidelines for the prevention of heart disease among women
discussion
Discussion
  • What is currently being done?
    • Public Information Campaigns
    • Promotion of Clinical Prevention Guidelines
    • Community Initiatives
    • National and State Policy
    • Other
  • What else should be done?
contact information
Contact Information

Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH

Chief, Division of Women’s Health

Executive Director, Connors Center for Women’s Health & Gender Biology

Ph: (617) 732-8985, Fx: (617) 264-5191, Email: pajohnson@partners.org

Rachel A. Wilson, MPH

Director, Women’s Health Policy and Advocacy

Ph: (617) 525-7516, Fx: (617) 525-7746, Email: rwilson1@partners.org

Rachael Fulp, MPH

Administrative Director, Center for Cardiovascular Disease in Women

Ph: (617) 732-7076; Fx: (617) 524-7746, Email:rfulp@partners.org

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115