In February of 2004 the American Heart Association published for the first time specific guidelines for cardiovascular disease prevention in women. A random national study of primary care physicians (PCP), OB-GYN physicians, and cardiologists was conducted in November of 2004 to evaluate physician awareness and adherence to these gender specific guidelines. Approximately 60% of the PCPs and OB-GYNs, and 80% of the cardiologists stated they were aware of the women’s heart disease preventative guidelines. Of the physicians who were aware of the guidelines only about 40% of the PCPs and cardiologists, and only 20% of the OB-GYNs stated they actually utilized the guidelines in the care of their female patients. Another alarming finding from this study was that only 8% of PCPs, 13% of OB-GYNs, and 17% of cardiologists knew that heart disease kills more women than men every year. In order to effectively modify heart disease risk factors and decrease heart disease mortality in women healthcare providers require additional education. Hopefully these numbers are improving.
Information like this is exactly what prompted us to write this blog. As nurses we are on the forefront, we are vital patient advocates and patient educators. February is National Heart Month and February 6, 2009 is National Wear Red Day.
The majority of the risk factors that can lead to the development of heart disease are similar for both men and women. One unique risk factor women experience is menopause. Prior to menopause estrogen protects most women from developing heart disease. After menopause (and the loss of estrogen) a clustering of heart disease risk factors occurs (including dyslipidemia, hypertension, and weight gain) which dramatically increases a woman’s risk for heart attacks and strokes. Clinical research studies have found that eighty percent of heart attacks are preventable by controlling and optimizing risk factors. It is imperative that women of all ages evaluate their risk factors (especially prior to menopause) in order to decrease their risk of developing heart disease. We need to empower women to identify their individual risk factors and make the necessary lifestyle changes, and what better time than during National Heart Month.
Knowledge is Power. By working together we can make a dramatic impact on decreasing the incidence of heart disease among women.
RISK FACTORS FOR HEART DISEASE:
Non-modifiable risk factors:
1) Increased age
2) Family history of heart disease
Modifiable risk factors:
3) Physical inactivity
6) Emotional stress
7) Diabetes/Metabolic syndrome
We are cardiac nurse practitioners specializing in heart disease prevention. We want to help you live a longer healthier life. Brand new book “Take Charge: A Woman’s Guide to a Healthier Heart” due out Feb 2009.
For more information please visit www.heart-strong.com