What Go Red for Women means to me

Women and Heart Disease

Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Women

There was a time when it was thought heart disease was  considered largely a man’s disease, when doctor’s rarely looked for coronary heart disease (CHD) in women. Then epidemiologist studied the leading causes of death for women and discovered one in four will die of heart disease, and it is prevalent in one of  three women .Women’s presenting symptoms in the hospital were rarely investigated to be due to heart problems, they were often listed as anxiety, meaningless or mental issues. If women were treated for their heart problems their outcomes were not as desirable, they had more complications, continued to have higher rates of mortality from heart disease. Research studies didn’t include women, and invasive testing measures to identify heart disease was rarely used on women. Women were less likely to attend programs such as cardiac rehabilitation following their hospitalizations. They were less likely to adopt healthy behaviors of smoking cessation, exercise, stress management. Some of this may have been due to history. Family histories of heart issues not addressed or tracked,  history of marketing of tobacco to women, women’s history of advancing in the work force  balancing careers – motherhood, sandwich generational care, the history of birth control use in women  all contributed to the prevalence of heart problems with women. The Go Red for Women cause in a national campaign to  address these issues.

Get a room of ladies together and listen to their stories of their heart issues. For many the presentation of symptoms was clear for some time, yet not identified as heart issues by the medical community through standard testing measures such as EKG or catheterization. Others present early young with severe disease, or middle age with traditional risk factors that were not addressed as prevention measures. They tell their stories with passion, fear, tears, regret, faith, hope, recovery, acceptance, frustration, and prevention. They band together to work to prevent their past history of heart issues being passed on to future generations and to support one another in the challenges of living with heart disease. It is a remarkable  event, and one I cherish being involved in. This fuels the passions to research, educate,  and communicate the messages of heart disease.

We strive to answer the following questions:

What is the cause? What makes is less likely to be identified in women? Why are women’s symptoms more atypical? Why do women feel less chest pain?    Why do women have less obstructive disease and different disease pattern than men? Why is there more risk for dying including during interventions if your are a woman? Why don’t women attend rehabilitation programs?

Programs like Go Red for Women bring forth the discussion, they raise awareness, they educate, and they fund raise for future research. From a cardiac rehabilitation standpoint they offer time to recognize the women, to give them time to tell their stories, to band together and make plans for the future, to let go of the past, to make friends along the journey, to recognize the struggles and barriers overcome, to honor the advancement of medicine.

So in honor of Go Red for Women today

  • Learn the signs and symptoms of heart disease 
  • Discuss your family history and risk factors
  • Commit to a lifestyle of healthy eating and exercise
  • Stop Smoking
  • Teach others about heart disease
  • Celebrate being a woman and wear red

A great history and article on the history of women and heart disease can be found at the following link:



Cardiac Rehabilitation programs continue to under serve Women and Minorities

Despite all the promotion of women and heart disease, women and minorities still do not attend cardiac rehabilitation programs.

This poster is being presented September 2012 at the annual American Association of Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation conference in Orlando , Florida.  https://www.aacvpr.org/

Click on the link  AACVPR 2012 (2) (1)   to see a poster presentation on women and minorities being under served in traditional cardiac rehabilitation programs in the United States. Although attention has been called to this issue for many years, we have yet to see changes in the utilization rates.  There are a number of reasons why women and minorities may not attend, including transportation, cost, lack of support systems, lack of insurance, yet the strength of the physician referral seems to be the strongest indicator as to whether a person attends  rehabilitation following a heart issue.

AACVPR 2012 (2) (1)