Color blind

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. In 2001, 22.4% of American women had cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. In that same year, cardiovascular diseases claimed the lives of 498,863 females, while all forms of cancer combined killed 266,693 females.
"Heart disease has always been a disease for women, it just tends to occur about 10 years after it would for a man," said Dr. Robert Roth, a cardiologist at Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital, Milwaukee. "Women are protected by estrogen in their early years and become more at risk after menopause. They are not immune to it. It just tends to happen later in life."
Dr. David Kasun, director of diagnostic and interventional procedures at the Wisconsin Heart Hospital, said not only are many women not aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer, but they do not realize that most women have atypical symptoms.
"Women do not feel an intense chest pain like men do," Kasun said. "Women have back or jaw pain, arm pain, nausea, vomiting – any number of angina equivalents. The message is don’t ignore a toothache if you know you don’t have a cavity."
Dr. Lisa Armaganian, a cardiologist for the Wisconsin Heart and Vascular Clinics with an office in Brookfield, said women should know their risk factors, such as diabetes, smoking, weight and physical inactivity.
"I have seen a lot more awareness from women in the community. Usually women are caretakers and overlook their own symptoms," Armaganian said. "We have seen women coming in for early screening and questioning symptoms, which is really important."
Kasun said part of the issue with women’s awareness is that the media hypes other things that women fear, even though the incidence of heart disease is so prevalent.
The Karen Yontz Women’s Cardiac Awareness Center at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Milwaukee and West Allis, has been spreading awareness and prevention plans for nine years. Audrey Blumenfeld, a registered dietician and the regional manager for the Karen Yontz Center and preventative services for Aurora Health Care, said there has been an awakening in Milwaukee with the help of the American Heart Association’s "Go Red For Women" Campaign.
The campaign boasts the slogan, "Do you know your number like you know your dress size?"
"There is no face to heart disease," Blumenfeld said. "I think the calamity of error is in believing it is an old person’s or a man’s disease. It is an equal opportunity killer, and you can be at risk even if there is no family history of it and your lipids are fine."
Blumenfeld said the two biggest mistakes women make are that they don’t think it could happen to them and then they don’t do anything in the interim to protect themselves from heart disease.
According to the Women’s HeartAdvantage, an organization aimed to educate prevent and help treat women with heart disease, Africa-American women have a higher risk of death from CVD than any other racial group. Furthermore, African-American and Mexican-American women have the lowest level of awareness.
The organization reported that 553 African-American women out of 100,000 die per year from CVD, compared with 388 deaths per 100,000 white women per year.
The Women’s HeartAdvantage said researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that, "a combination of genetics, smoking habits, ethnic diets (which may be high in saturated fat), and other social or cultural traditions could contribute to a higher number of CVC-related deaths in African-American and Mexican-American women."
Lower awareness among minorities could be due to information not being readily available, according to Denise Carty, the minority health officer for the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services.
"The reason African-American and Latino women may have a limited awareness is because messages that resonate within communities or that communities can respond to are not the right type of messages. They are not culturally directed, there may be a language barrier or they are not creative enough to grab people’s attention," Carty said.
Blumenfeld said the Karen Yontz Center offers multi-lingual classes and is a multi-cultural community. Upon a physician’s referral, the Karen Yontz Center offers services that are not covered by insurance but are competitively low in price.
Coronary risk profiles cost $50. Personal trainers are available for $35 per hour.
Programs such as learning to live well for the whole family and cooking classes are available.
"Here we look at the total woman, and I think heart disease is a matter of environment, lifestyle and mind-body connection," Blumenfeld said. "I like to say your home is your health club. Prevention begins within you. You do not need a trainer or a gym or a gourmet cook, but a resolution to form a program that will last the rest of your life."
April 30, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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