Tips & Advice

From Dr. Liz Herself

February 17, 2021
Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women
healthy women smiling

For right now, Covid is currently the number 1 killer of Americans. Once the pandemic subsides – which *will* happen – heart disease will resume it’s #1 spot.

Heart disease kills more women than cancer

Heart disease kills more women than cancer, yet most women are more afraid of cancer than of heart disease. Why might this be?

One reason is what psychologists call the “availability heuristic.” (I had to look up “heuristic” – it’s a fancy word for “something that helps you learn.”)

Celebrities with heart problems

Star Jones

Starlet Marie Jones, image from Wikipedia

This means, for example, that you hear in the media about celebrities diagnosed with breast cancer, but you do not hear as much about female celebrities who have had heart problems. Did you know that Miley Cyrus has a condition of an occasional elevated heart rate – she doesn’t put out social media posts about it but she does talk about it when asked. Also, many famous women have had heart attacks, including Star Jones, Rosie O’Donnell, Olivia Newton-John, Barbara Walters, and the list goes on.

You probably recall that Angelina Jolie chose to have a double mastectomy. That was due to her finding out she has the BRCA gene, raising her potential chance of getting breast cancer, but she did not have breast cancer. Yet we all learned about her journey.

Several interesting studies show that this kind of media attention to a health issue increases the fear of the condition and the belief that it is more common than it actually is.

The American Heart Association launched the “Go Red for Women” campaign in 2004 to raise awareness of heart disease in women. The program has been so successful that they are now turning their attention to more practical implementation of programs, such as supporting community health collaborations and health technology to improve heart health outcomes in women.

Symptoms of heart disease in women vs. men

One of the major awareness-raising achievements over the past few decades is understanding the differences in how heart disease is diagnosed and treated in women as compared to men. Here again is an image I posted a couple of weeks ago about the presenting symptoms of heart disease in women vs. men:

Symptoms of heart attack in women and men

Several very large studies have shown that even women who have had breast cancer are more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than from breast cancer!

Now that you know, help raise heart disease awareness among women you know and love, so we can focus on preventing the #1 killer of women.

How can you help raise heart disease awareness among women you know?

I will be sharing Heart Health Tips all of February in honor of American Heart Month to all my newsletter subscribers. You can invite them to join my mailing list by sharing this article with them.

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