Inspirational advice for women about heart disease in honor of International Women's Day
Excerpts from Onlife Magazine March 8 2022 Health Feature in honor of International Women's Day (translated from Hebrew)
The number one cause of death in the world and in Israel for women is cardiovascular disease. Why do women come to hospitals later than men? How women should take care of themselves and why so few women choose to specialize in cardiology. The five cardiologists who run the women's heart health centers in Israel in a heart-to-heart conversation.
The cardiologists who run the women's heart health clinics: top right – Dr. Donna Zwas, Hadassah University Medical Center, Dr. Bella Kaufman, Tel-Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Bottom right: Dr. Romana Hershkovitz, Sheba-Tel Hashomer Medical Center, Dr. Tali Porter, Beilinson-Rabin Medical Center, Dr. Miri Bleich, Rambam Medical Center
Dr. Zwas and four other leading female cardiologists were interviewed by Onlife, a well-known online Hebrew language magazine that promotes women and social impact in Israel in honor of International Women's Day. The on-line article, viewed by more than 17,000 readers, featured a heart to heart conversation with cardiologists who run women's heart clinics in Israel. They delivered news that was both sobering, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in women the world and inspiring, as gaps in the treatment of heart disease among men and women are beginning to close thanks to improved awareness and knowledge.
The cardiologists shared their expertise about heart disease in women and how women can reduce their risks and discussed a wide range of topics such as gender differences in heart disease, risk factors unique to women and higher rates of heart disease among women suffering from obesity and diabetes or sociological factors like poverty, trauma, anxiety and sexual abuse and violence. They also talked about the challenges and opportunities they experience as women in a male-dominated field.
Here are some of the facts and tips they shared.
What women should know
The number one cause of death for women in the world is cardiovascular disease: More than 5,000 women die in Israel every year as a result of heart disease. Heart disease is more likely to kill women than breast cancer.
Get tested and self-test for cardiovascular disease: measure your blood pressure, check your cholesterol and check your sugar. Do something for yourself, exercise, maintain a healthy weight and use stress management techniques
Women and heart attacks
During a heart attack, women arrive later for hospital treatment than men. Even once they arrive in the hospital it may take longer until they receive treatment.
A woman's symptoms may be 'atypical' for a heart attack, including shortness of breath, indigestion, jaw pain, upper back pain or excessive fatigue. Women may be told that ' maybe it's an anxiety attack' and they are more likely to minimize the severity of their symptoms.
The importance of heart health centers for women
Running a women's health clinic means going out into the community and raising awareness in the teams, populations and communities where the clinics work.
There are clear gender differences when it comes to heart disease. Women have, different symptoms, different risk factors, more frequent and more severe complications including higher mortality rates, and suffer from heart diseases that are less common but more frequent in women.
Prevention of heart disease among women needs to start when they are young. Drugs may work differently and have more side effects in women.
Women are less likely to complete a full rehabilitation after a heart attack and suffer more from depression. With higher rates of smoking, obesity and diabetes, there has been an increase in cardiovascular disease among younger women.
Classic risk factors versus risk factors unique to women
Classic risk factors are high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, smoking and family background as well as obesity and inactivity. Risk factors unique to women include polycystic ovary disease, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia.
More gendered risk factors include physical or sexual violence at a young age; most of the victims are women, and this has long-term consequences. Anxiety, depression, trauma and sociological factors like poverty also contribute to heart disease in women.
Arab women and heart disease
Cardiac mortality among Arab women in Israel is 60% higher than that of Jewish women. Arab women suffer from heart disease 10 years earlier than Jewish women due to obesity, diabetes and lack of physical activity among other things.
Cardiology in Israel
Today, women make up roughly 20% of cardiologists in Israel and over 50% of students in medical school. Young women say that they are being given opportunities – a positive change. Women receive mentoring but not positioning so they are less likely to be appointed to a senior position. Department heads need to work hard to promote this.
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