It’s important to spend time discussing the burgeoning impact of cardiovascular disease (CVD) on women’s health. In an analysis of more than 161,000 women enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative, 83% of participants were classified as being “high risk” or “at risk” for CVD.1 With rising rates of deaths due to heart disease being documented for women under 65 years, increased awareness and preventive measures may be key to reversing this negative trend.2 As healthcare providers, it’s our job to help educate a diverse patient population for whom CVD is the “number one” health threat.1
One factor contributing to the sustained rise in heart disease deaths in younger women may be their frequent role as caregivers, as placing others first likely leaves women vulnerable to experiencing declines in their own health.2 Indeed, one in four women caregivers in the United States rated themselves as being in poor or fair health in a national representative survey.3 Although it may be challenging, prioritizing one’s own healthcare (as highlighted and encouraged during Women’s Health Week and Women’s Health Month) could be very impactful in preventing heart related issues, including heart attacks and strokes.2
Hypertension and diabetes also influence cardiovascular mortality.1 Communicating the need to screen for these conditions is essential, as patients may be unaware of the impact of these disorders on cardiovascular health and may not even realize they have these disorders.2 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hypertension is fairly common; in one national survey, the estimated prevalence of hypertension for women was 39.7%.4 In another survey, 16.9% of women were unaware of their hypertension status and 40.7% had hypertension that was uncontrolled.5 A manuscript that assessed the risk associated with various blood pressure measurements and CV complications in women showed an increase in risk of a CV event with increases in blood pressure and higher proportion of potentially preventable events.6 Regarding diabetes, estimated prevalence in women was 9.3% overall, with 30% of patients having undiagnosed diabetes and 51.5% having diabetes that was uncontrolled.5 Women with diabetes under age 55 have a tenfold greater risk of developing coronary heart disease within the next 20 years.7
Awareness and prevention strategies include lifestyle modifications, which constitute our greatest defense in the fight against heart disease. Healthy lifestyle choices include reducing sodium in the diet, participating in regular physical activity, limiting alcohol consumption, managing stress levels, obtaining sufficient sleep, and avoiding tobacco-containing products. In addition, self-checking blood pressure on a routine basis is fairly simple and inexpensive.8 Medication therapy may also be a valid option for some individuals after consulting a medical professional. The American Heart Association (AHA) is working to improve the Affordable Care Act, making health insurance more accessible and affordable for all, with or without preexisting conditions, in support of healthier lifestyles.9 Go Red for Women campaigns encourage lifestyle interventions that can help reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 80%.3
Veradigm is dedicated to using our technology, analytics and point-of-care tools to help in the fight against heart disease in women. We are partnering with the American College of Cardiology (ACC) to help improve cardiac care in the U.S. We are working to leverage our technologies and provider network to bring the best practices, most up-to date guidelines, and policies developed by the college to physicians at the point of care. By doing so, we are helping to bring innovative therapies and new treatments to patients more quickly to positively impact healthcare.