Many Women Are Not Informed of Heart Disease Risk
Although nearly three-quarters of women taking a recent survey had one or more risk factors for heart disease, a startlingly small proportion — just 16 percent — had actually been told by their doctors that these factors put them at risk for heart disease, according to a study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 65th Annual Scientific Session in April 2016 in Chicago.
A release from the American College of Cardiology notes that medical guidelines recommend anyone with a heart disease risk factor should receive regular blood pressure and blood cholesterol checks, as well as counseling on smoking and heart-healthy lifestyle changes. The survey revealed many women were not given proper follow-up care and that many were simply told to lose weight.
In addition, nearly half of the survey participants admitted to canceling or postponing a health appointment until they could lose weight, suggesting a focus on weight management could present a significant barrier to receiving proper health care.
The release quotes C. Noel Bairey Merz, M.D., FACC, medical director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and the study’s lead author, as saying, “Women’s heart awareness has stalled, despite almost three decades of campaigning by numerous women’s heart health advocacy groups. We wanted to understand what the roadblocks were and why women and their physicians were not taking action to monitor their heart health.”
More than 1,000 women participated in the Internet-based survey, administered by GfK KnowledgePanel as part of a study organized by the Women’s Health Alliance. To recruit a sample representative of 97 percent of American households, organizers provided Internet access for participants who did not otherwise have access. The survey asked women about their health conditions and their experiences interacting with health care providers.
The results revealed 74 percent of women had at least one heart disease risk factor, such as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, irregular menstrual periods, early menopause or a family history of heart disease. Only 16 percent of women reported being told by a doctor that they have or are at risk for heart disease, while 34 percent reported being told to lose weight.
“Women feel stigmatized. They are most often told to lose weight rather than have their blood pressure and blood cholesterol checked,” Bairey Merz said. “If women don’t think they’re going to get heart disease and they’re being told by society and their doctors that everything would be fine if they just lost weight, that explains the paradox of why women aren’t going in for the recommended heart checks. Who wants to be told to lose weight?”