Heart disease not a problem for men only

Filed under: News |

The American Heart Association says that almost one-half million American women die each year – one death per minute – from cardiovascular disease, making it the No. 1 killer of American women. Since 1984, more women than men have died of some form of cardiovascular disease, and 64 percent of women who die from coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.

Unfortunately, women fail to recognize the symptoms because heart disease has traditionally been perceived as a male-dominated illness, said Sandy Gregory, the vice-president of AHA non-metro operations.

Only 8 percent of women in America recognize the seriousness of cardiovascular disease.

“The majority of women think they are going to die of breast cancer, but one in two women die of heart disease and one in 27 die of breast cancer,” Gregory said. “Many physicians have in the past directed women’s symptoms to other problems, like female-related health concerns. Physicians are now taking things more seriously. However, women are not aware of the prevalence of heart disease and strokes in females.”

AHA is attempting to change women’s minds and hearts through a national initiative that began in February. On Oct. 1, the AHA is hosting the second annual Go Red for Women luncheon and educational seminar at the Antlers Hilton. Sallie Clark and Paulette Greenberg are co-chairs. Clark stated in a news release that “the Go Red for Women luncheon will be one of Colorado Springs most important educational and social events this year.”

Carrie Perkins is the co-owner of Veda Salons – located at the Broadmoor Towne Center and Centennial and Garden of the Gods roads. Veda is a part of Aveda Corporate, and Perkins said a big part of the corporate mission is giving back to the community. “Seventy-five percent of our guests are women, and I don’t think they know the dangers or the risks of heart disease, and the salon is in a place where we can help with this.”

Penrose/St. Francis is helping spread the word to women through a targeted ad campaign, community screenings and ongoing education. The hospital system received a $450,000 grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for heart education outreach to women.

Julie Armstrong is the director of marketing and communications for Penrose/St. Francis, and the subject is dear to her heart because both her parents died of heart attacks.

“My father was a physician, and he thought his symptoms were related to acid reflux disease,” Armstrong said. Two years ago, her mother collapsed in a travel agency and died in a matter of seconds. Armstrong said her mother had no warning signs.

The warning signs and symptoms of heart disease are different for women, Armstrong said. The other issue, she said, is that women are so busy taking care of everyone else that they ignore or deny their own physical problems.

“Women need to take charge of their health and address issues related to stress, inactivity and obesity,” Armstrong said. “The incidents of stroke-related mortalities in El Paso County are higher than the national average.”

Stroke is the third leading cause of death for American women and the No. l long-term disabling disease in women.

Stroke and heart education go hand in hand, Armstrong said, and, as an AHA board director, she is glad Penrose/St. Francis is supporting the Go Red event. “The bottom line is raising money for research – the AHA has funded all of the important research,” she said. “Lives have been saved through research that has provided pacemakers, stints, cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques and bypass surgery.”

Memorial Hospital manages a program that raises awareness about the heart disease risk factors for women. “Women need to be aware of the risks and what they can do – so much of it is under their control,” said Rita Burns, administrator of marketing and communications. “We really believe it’s (Go Red) an important initiative for women in this community, and we are happy to be a part of it.”

Zonya Foco is a registered dietitian, a national speaker and the author of “The Power of One Good Habit.” She is the feature speaker for the Go Red luncheon. Foco will discuss how women can get control of their health through nutrition.

Along with the luncheon, attendees are invited to participate in health screenings related to heart and overall health. Physicians and health care professionals will answer questions at information booths, and a panel of doctors and registered dieticians will discuss issues related to heart health from 10 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 2 p.m. The event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and tickets are $60. For more information and luncheon reservations, call 635-7688.

“Men are also encouraged to attend,” Gregory said. “Although the event is geared toward heart health for women, men will benefit as well, and they have an opportunity to understand health issues related to their mothers, wives, sisters, etc.”

- Marylou.Doehrman@csbj.com