It takes dedicated research and study to understand how best to identify heart risk and heart disease in women and dedicated clinicians who will put the research findings into practice. The American Heart Association Wear Red Day, Go Red for Women campaigns work to educate women about heart and vascular disease ~
For Wear Red Day 2016, here are a few conference takeaways:
- Ischemic heart disease is not a “Man’s” disease ~ in fact heart disease is the leading killer of mothers, wives, aunts, daughters, sisters. Cardiac tests may include radiation exposure; ask about the tests your doctor is recommending – are there alternatives that don’t involve radiation.
2. Cardio Oncology focuses on heart health in the setting of cancer treatment; either history of cancer treatment or current – the goal is to be sure women can receive the most effective cancer treatments while protecting their heart function ~ As with all heart health, making sure you control risk factors for heart disease (hypertension or high blood pressure for example) also helps the heart stay strong during chemotherapy.
3. Consider pregnancy a stress test for your heart It is important to follow up if you have hypertension in pregnancy, pre-eclampsia, or eclampsia or diabetes in pregnancy because these conditions may improve after delivery but are now included as risk factors for heart disease and stroke for women over the next 30 years.
4. Vascular disease is under-diagnosed in women ~ the role of hormone therapy and venous thrombo-embolism (VTE) or blood clots in veins is significant. While it is not recommended to test everyone who starts hormone therapy, it is important to speak up if you have a family history of blood clots or any signs/symptoms of blood clot (leg swelling, pain) – especially in the first 12 months of hormone therapy.
5. Venous disease can cause leg pain and swelling, over time can be disabling due to skin changes such as ulcers; compression socks and vascular procedures can help.
6. Women suffer from delay seeking treatment AND delay of diagnosis of acute MI (heart attack). For Women: Don’t wait for symptoms to go away; it might not be chest pain; women can experience fatigue, sweats, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea or abdominal pain – call 911. For Healthcare Providers : Think Nose to Navel ~ a program designed to reduce the time to EKG evaluation for women.
7. What’s a treatment that reduces risk of death, heart attack, and more heart procedures? Cardiac Rehab. Why are referrals and enrollment not 100%? Why are both even lower for women? Make time for Cardiac Rehab and for Heart Health; it’s worth the effort.
8. Women are underrepresented in Heart Rhythm Disorders research; we know that being a woman increases stroke risk in atrial fibrillation. Be sure to ask your doctor if you have atrial fibrillation, if you need to be checked for atrial fibrillation, and if you should be taking a medicine to reduce your risk of stroke. Get involved and participate in clinical research.
Thanks to conference attendees ~ the room was at capacity ~ more healthcare professionals learning about the diagnosis and treatment of heart and vascular disease in women.