To increase awareness about women’s risk for heart disease and prevention efforts, Northwell Health today took part in the national “Go Red for Women” campaign with a program and news conference at the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at North Shore University Hospital. The event coincided with the American Heart Association’s (AHA) annual National Wear Red Day to show support for women’s heart health.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in this country. Heart disease and stroke cause one in three deaths among women each year, according to the AHA – more than all cancers combined. However, cardiologists who spoke at the event noted that 80 percent of cardiac events may be preventable with education and lifestyle changes.
The event, which drew more than 150 Northwell employees, focused on gender differences regarding heart disease and risks among women. The program also delivered messages to empower women to make healthy lifestyle changes and how to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke. To bring home the message home, an interactive health fair was held during the event, offering attendees blood pressure screenings, healthful cooking stations and discussions with nurses and other health care specialists about a range of wellness topics.
Committed to educating communities about ways to improve women’s heart health, Northwell Health is AHA’s “NYC Cities Go Red Sponsor” and the presenting sponsor for Long Island.
“For more than a decade the Go Red movement has made major strides in raising awareness about women and heart, yet too few women consider cardiac disease a major health concern,” said Stacey E. Rosen, MD, vice president of women's health, The Katz Institute for Women's Health at Northwell Health, and a member of AHA’s national Board of Directors.
Dr. Rosen said between 1997 and 2012, there was a 26 percent increase in the number of women identifying heart disease as a leading cause of death. Citing the AHA, she also attributed the national Go Red movement to collectively in saving more than 670,000 women’s lives.
“For women it is important to understand that the symptoms of heart disease may be different than in men,” said Sonia Henry, MD, medical director of echocardiography at the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital at North Shore University Hospital. “Women are less likely to have typical chest pain and may have other symptoms like back pain, abdominal pain, excessive fatigue or nausea as their first sign of heart disease. Women should know that it is important not to delay seeking immediate treatment.”
During the program, Charlotte Balsam, 76, a heart disease survivor from Floral Park, shared a story about experiencing perplexing stomach pains and some shortness of breath after traveling to Israel with her family about a year and a half ago. “When I returned home I went to a number of doctors and underwent numerous tests,” explained the grandmother of six and former New York City high school teacher.
Ms. Balsam’s was referred to Dr. Henry – the last doctor she sought out. Based on Ms. Balsam’s symptoms and strong family history of cardiac disease on her paternal side, Dr. Henry ordered cardiac tests to diagnose blocked or narrow heart arteries. It revealed her patient had two blocked coronary arteries and needed a procedure to prop open the arteries and restore normal blood flow.
Barry Kaplan, MD, co-director of the Heart Hospital, performed angioplasty, or cardiac stenting, which required an overnight stay for Ms. Balsam. “The stents saved me from an eventual heart attack and I am grateful to the doctors and staff at North Shore for their compassion and expertise,” she said.
Ms. Balsam added that 10 months after her first heart procedure she experienced vague abdominal pains. She sought treatment from Dr. Henry and again needed a stent to unblock a heart artery. “Women tend to ignore symptoms,” said Ms. Balsam, adding, “Whatever your age, don’t ignore your symptoms.”
“We know the Go Red for Women movement helps women live healthier lives,” Dr. Rosen said. For example, Dr. Rosen said nearly 90 percent of the women involved in the campaign have made at least one healthy behavior change; more than one-third have lost weight, about 50 percent have stepped up their exercise and six out of 10 have changed their diets.
“Getting involved with Go Red for Women saves lives,” said Dr. Henry. “It encourages women to take charge of their heart health by identifying modifiable risk factors and by making small changes that are within their control, such as maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and not smoking.”
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Northwell Health is New York State’s largest health care provider and private employer, with 21 hospitals and over 550 outpatient facilities. We care for more than two million people annually in the metro New York area and beyond, thanks to philanthropic support from our communities. Our 61,000 employees – 15,000+ nurses and nearly 3,400 physicians, including nearly 2,700 members of Northwell Health Physician Partners -- are working to change health care for the better. We’re making breakthroughs in medicine at the Feinstein Institute. We're training the next generation of medical professionals at the visionary Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and the School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies. And we offer health insurance through CareConnect. For information on our more than 100 medical specialties, visit Northwell.edu.