Health Insider Update


Are Women Receiving the Right Advice when it comes to Heart Health?

Are Women Receiving the Right Advice when it comes to Heart Health?
April 01
11:36 2016
Did you know: the number of heart attacks in women between the ages of 35 and 54 has increased over the last 20 years? Perhaps this is because when a woman visits her doctor, she is less likely to be advised and informed about heart health and more likely to be asked to lose weight.

Yes, heart disease typically strikes women 7-10 years later than it does men, but that’s no reason to ignore it! There is also the popular misconception that women are “protected” against heart disease.

As it turns out, the rate of coronary heat disease among women ages 35-44 has increased by more than 1% annually between the years 1997 and 2002.

A new study by the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in California attempts to discover the reasons behind this worrying trend.

In the mean time, the number of myocardial infarctions (AKA heart attacks) in men has decreased. At least the guys are receiving sound advice. 

“Women’s heart awareness has stalled, despite almost three decades of campaigning by numerous women’s heart health advocacy groups,” explains lead study author Dr. C. Noel Merz. “We wanted to understand what the roadblocks were and why women and their physicians were not taking action to monitor their heart health.”

1307531_1437741300Any person who displays certain risk factors for heart disease should receive regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks in addition to advice and information about health lifestyle changes.

Cardiac Health Awareness

“Women feel stigmatized. They are most often told to lose weight rather than have their blood pressure and blood cholesterol checked,” says Merz.

Of the 1,000 women who participated in the study, nearly 74% displayed one or more risk factors for heart disease (family history of heart disease, irregular menstruation, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, etc.).

But only 16% had been warned about the risks of heart disease. A full 34% had been advised to lose weight. Yes, obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, but that does not mean it should be the sole focus of prevention. Merz’s findings suggest such a habit actually reduces a woman’s chances of receiving the proper monitoring and counseling.

Other research shows that the pattern flip-flops for men: they are advised about heart health far more often than they are asked to lose weight.

Merz’s findings line up with another study he did last year. In the previous study, numerous cardiologists and physicians were asked about how they broach the topic of heart health with female patients. His findings confirmed that doctors “seem to prioritize weight loss over pretty much everything else.”

His more recent study revealed that 75% of women don’t even discuss heart disease – no doubt this is a result of the stigmas surrounding obesity and weight. To alter these concerning trends, Merz believes that we must dispel those stigmas and improve education regarding heart disease and its risk factors.


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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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