Go Red For Women Friday

February 3, 2012 by staff 

Go Red For Women Friday, Today, Friday Feb. 3rd, National Wear Red Day, put on your favorite red sweater, dress or T-shirt and join in efforts to raise awareness about the No. 1 killer of women in America: heart disease.

While heart disease has long been considered an illness of men, it is in fact the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. Stroke, a condition caused by a sudden shortage of oxygen and nutrient delivery to the brain, ranks as the No. 3 killer for all people, and fourth for women specifically. Thanks to the triumphs of biomedical research and public health advances, the death rates from heart disease and stroke have declined by 60 percent since the 1950s.

Medications to treat high blood pressure and reduce cholesterol have played a significant role in lowering mortality rates, as has the decline in tobacco use in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hails the reduction in deaths from heart disease and stroke as one of the most significant public health achievements of the 20th century. Yet, even today, more people still die from these two diseases annually in America than from cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and kidney disease combined. In 2010, heart disease and stroke claimed the lives of more than 750,000 Americans. Those who survive acute attacks of these diseases can experience significant complications, with stroke ranking first as the leading cause of long-term disability among adults in the U.S.

Unfortunately, many people incorrectly assume that heart disease is primarily a disease of older men, and that cancer is the leading cause of death for women in America. But the truth is that heart disease is the leading killer of women in the U.S., and heart disease and stroke kill more women than the next five causes of death combined [2]. Last year alone, cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of nearly half a million women, and according to the Women’s Heart Foundation, when adjusted for age and other factors, the mortality risk from cardiovascular illness is 1.7 times higher in women as compared to men. Furthermore, the death rate for heart disease in men has decreased by 17 percent since 1979, but it has only declined by 2.5 percent over this same period for women [2]. However, only 55 percent of women know that heart disease is their No. 1 killer, and less than half of women surveyed know what healthy levels are for determinants of cardiac health such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels [1]. Even more shocking, more than 90 percent of primary care physicians don’t know that heart disease kills more women than men each year [2].

In addition to raising awareness of heart disease in women, special emphasis must be placed on the health of minority and younger females. While one-third of Caucasian adult women are living with some form of cardiovascular disease, that number climbs to nearly 50 percent in African-American women [2]. Furthermore, stroke incidence is rising dramatically among young and middle-aged Americans while declining in older people. A recent study presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Stroke Association reported a 17 percent increase in strokes among women 15 through 34 years old. This alarming shift in the age burden of this disease may be linked to the obesity epidemic in the U.S., which is a major risk factor for stroke.

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