Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women, but few feel a personal link with the disease, new research shows.
A 2014 nationwide survey of more than 1,000 women between the ages of 25 and 60 found that only 27 percent could name a woman in their lives with heart disease and only 11 percent could name a woman who died from it.
Age made a difference. Among those between 50 and 60 years of age, 37 percent knew a woman with heart disease, compared with 23 percent of the younger group.
Respondents who knew a woman with heart disease were 25 percent more likely to be concerned about it for themselves and 19 percent more likely to bring up heart health with their doctors, the Women’s Heart Alliance survey found.
The study was to be presented Sunday at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Fla. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary, because it has not had the same scrutiny as published studies.
“Since women who report knowing another woman with heart disease are more apt to express concern and, importantly, bring up this issue with their doctor, awareness of heart disease is crucial,” study author Dr. C. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said in a heart association news release.
The survey also found that doctors tend to focus more on women’s weight than other heart disease risk factors, while men are more likely to be told their cholesterol or blood pressure levels are too high.
“We are stalled on women’s awareness of heart disease, partly because women say they put off going to the doctor until they’ve lost a few pounds. This is clearly a gendered issue,” Bairey Merz said.
“Women should be screened for heart disease, including finding out their atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) score — also called the ‘A-risk score.’ This figure uses your age, sex, race, blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood pressure medication use, diabetes status and smoking status to get a 10-year cardiovascular disease risk and a lifetime risk score,” Bairey Merz said.
She said every woman aged 40 and older needs to get her A-risk score, and those under 40 need to know their blood pressure and cholesterol.
The U.S. Office on Women’s Health has more about heart disease.