More than 400,000 women die from heart disease in the U.S. each year—four times more than the number of deaths from breast cancer, and more than all cancers combined.¹ Far too often, women fighting heart disease are either inaccurately diagnosed, or do not receive the care they need.²³ At WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease we help all women understand their risk factors for heart disease, how they can prevent it, and what they should do if they think they might be having a heart attack. Such knowledge can, literally, save your life.
There is some good news about heart disease. It is preventable. Women should keep in mind the “ABCs” of prevention every day: Aspirin therapy for women who are at risk, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and smoking cessation. In addition, all women should exercise 30 minutes a day, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat and trans-fat, and maintain a healthy body weight. These lifestyle and dietary habits have an important role in staying heart healthy.
Friends and family play an essential role in the recovery and well-being of a heart disease patient. A heart disease diagnosis can leave a woman feeling overwhelmed, depressed or anxious; depression is twice as common in women as in men.⁴ You can support a friend who has heart disease by being an active listener and by encouraging her to connect with other women heart disease survivors with whom she can share her experience, and see that many women thrive, despite their diagnosis.
WomenHeart has 136 local Support Networks for women with heart disease in 39 states and in Canada. They are led by WomenHeart Champions – women heart disease survivors trained by WomenHeart as Support Network Coordinators. WomenHeart Support Networks are community-based patient support groups that meet monthly. WomenHeart Support Networks provide education on heart disease and information on how you can live well with heart disease, and, most importantly, they connect you with other women who “have been there.” We also have an online patient support community and provide support via our Sister Match program.
Lisa M. Tate has enjoyed a career of more than 25 years in public affairs, health care advocacy, and non-profit management. Since her arrival in 2007, WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease has multiplied its collaborations with health providers, corporate partners and non-profit allies, enabling it to expand the number of community-based support groups, online patient support services and its unique, national network of WomenHeart Champions.
WomenHeart is the nation's only patient centered organization serving the 42 million American women living with or at risk for heart disease – the leading cause of death in women. WomenHeart is solely devoted to advancing women's heart health through advocacy, community education, and the nation's only patient support network for women living with heart disease. WomenHeart is both a coalition and a community of thousands of members nationwide, including WomenHeart Champions, women heart patients and their families, physicians, and health advocates, all committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives.
Prior to WomenHeart, Lisa spent 14 years with the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions as Vice President of Public Affairs, and, before that, she managed public affairs programs for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Heart disease is a major concern for all Americans, but no group is more significantly affected by it than the African American community.
African Americans are less likely to have their cardiovascular disease treated according to evidence-based guidelines, and when it comes to surgery, African Americans are three times more likely to be operated on by a high-risk surgeon.
Unsurprisingly, this divide in care is leads to a divide in health outcomes. The statistics are eye-opening: African American men and women are 76 and 54 percent more likely than their white counterparts to die of stroke. African Americans have a higher prevalence of hypertension and diabetes as well.
As medical professionals and people of color, we cannot stand for such levels of disparity to continue. That is the impetus behind our 2020 Goal: a commitment to reduce the cardiovascular disease disparity gap between African Americans and whites by 20 percent by the year 2020.
How do we achieve our goal?
There are several key aspects that must be addressed to make this a reality.
First, we must increase diversity in medical professions and bring higher-quality, more consistent care to historically-underserved minority communities. Quite simply, more, better care will only improve patients’ health. By providing at-risk patients the care necessary to treat their condition and the information and skills necessary to manage their health on their own, we can make a big impact in reducing the disproportionate effect cardiovascular disease has on African Americans.
We must also continue to invest in the research and development of new drugs and treatments to address some of the racial, ethnic and gender differences that exist and can hinder therapeutic responses for different patients. Developing these new treatments will help millions of Americans of different ethnic backgrounds receive the appropriate care that is best-suited for them.
There may not be a single magic bullet that reduces cardiovascular disease in the African American community, but through a multi-pronged approach we can improve patient results and reduce the disparity in health care outcomes between African Americans and the rest of the country.
Dr. Akinboboye, MD, MPH, FACC FACP FAHA FASNC FSCCT DABMS MBA is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, NY. He is also the Medical Director of Queens Heart Institute., in Rosedale, Queens. NY.
Dr Akinboboye was on the faculty of Columbia University from 1995 to 2000 as Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine. He obtained a Master of Public health Degree from the School of Public health at Columbia University in 1998. He also received a Masters degree in Business Administration from Columbia business School in 2001. He is board certified in internal medicine, cardiology, hypertension, cardiac CT sleep medicine and nuclear cardiology.
He serves as the President of the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC). In addition to this leadership position, Dr. Akinboboye is Vice Chair of ABC’s Continuing Education Committee. He also serves on the International Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology, the Professional Education, Hypertension Leadership, and Diversity Leadership Committees of the American Heart Association.
Dr. Ola Akinboboye has received numerous awards. He was selected by Castle Connolly as one of America's Top Doctors in the New York Metro area from 2005 to 2013. He was recognized by New York Magazine as one of New York’s best heart doctors 2006-2008, New York’s superdoctors in 2013, and on the cover of the Network Journal 2/2008, as one of the Best Black Doctors in the New York tri-state area. He was also recognized by US News and World reports as one of the best cardiologists in the United States.
He received a humanitarian award from the College of Medicine at University of Ibadan in Nigeria in 2005 for his ongoing efforts to spread expertise in the techniques of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in Nigeria. He also received an award from the Association of Black Cardiologists for his dedicated service as a board member from 1999 to 2005.