In this column, I hope to focus on issues,
both serious and light-hearted that concern women and
people who love and care about women.
As females, we hear all the time about making sure we get
our gynecological check ups and breast exams, but rarely
are we told about the health issues connected with women
and hearts. What follows is something we really don't
want to think about, but please take the time to read
through and take it seriously.
Cardiovascular disease (diseases
which affect the heart and the blood vessels)
kills more than half a million women each year.
Heart attacks kill about 235,000
women each year, more than five times the number
killed by breast cancer.
Although heart disease increases as
we age, young women are not immune. An estimated
74,000 women between the ages of 45 and 64 will
suffer heart attacks this year. Also,the heart
attacks that younger women suffer are more likely
to be fatal than those suffered by older women.
If these facts surprised you, you're not
alone; they surprised me too. Having just quit smoking 2
months ago, I was doing research to try to find out how
much healthier I could be and what I could do when I came
upon those statistics. In fact, heart disease has been
the number 1 killer of women going back as far as 1908.
More recently, a 1999 study in the New England Journal of
Medicine reported on hidden bias in how doctors make
clinical decisions. Primary-care physicians who viewed
videotapes of actors relaying symptoms characteristic of
heart disease diagnosed females with the condition only
60 percent as often as men. This gender bias means that
women's hearts are less likely to be correctly diagnosed
or properly treated. As a result, we undergo far fewer
diagnostic tests or surgical treatments for heart
This skewed emphasis also does women a disservice because
we miss the
opportunity to make changes in our lifestyle, which
protect not only our hearts, but the rest of our health
as well. For instance, many women continue to smoke,
unaware of the damage they are doing to their bodies.
Smoking takes a huge toll on women, in terms of
dramatically increasing both heart disease and lung
cancer risk. But, as women focus on breast cancer, this
message does not get through.
Should we continue doing breast self-exams? Of course.
Should we continue to get mammograms? Yes, again. And
should money be allocated for research into breast
cancer? Absolutely. But it's time to keep up the pressure
for more research, medical training and public education
into all diseases that afflict women, including, of
course, heart disease.
Bunella, also known as Bunz, is a not-so-recent graduate
of the School of Hard Knocks. She has been married 3
times and feels this qualifies her to write on many
women's issues. She has done work previously for the HOT
Press under different pseudonyms and will probably
continue to do so, since no one can shut her up. If you'd
like certain topics addressed, feel free to email her at Bunella@aol.com or suffer the stuff
she wishes to address.