"Most women who died from heart attacks never had chest pains in the manner in which men often report chest pains prior to a heart attack," says C. Jennifer Dankle, DO, the vascular specialist who supervises the University of Minnesota Physicians Heart at Fairview Southdale Hospital's women's clinic in Edina, MN. "The idea is to raise awareness among hospital staff as well as patients themselves that the presentations for a possible heart condition is different for men and women.
A 2006 survey conducted by the American Heart Association found that 43% of women are unaware that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. Among primary care physicians, only 8% knew that more women than men die each year from cardiovascular disease, according to the AHA.
There are other disparities. Although women of color and of low socioeconomic status are disproportionately affected by heart disease, according to the AHA, only 31% of black women and 29% of Hispanic women knew that heart disease was their greatest health risk, compared to 68% of white women.
Recently, Dankle tells me she has been working more to get the word out to providers and patients alike about women's cardiac issues. In February, Fairview Southdale Hospital hosted its "first annual" Women's Cardiology Care Conference – Matters of the Heart," which Dankle says was "very well attended and received by community providers"
"We continue to host several patient educational events to reach out to the community and increase awareness of heart disease in women," she says. "I am starting a women's support group for perimenopausal women who suffer a heart attack or are diagnosed with heart disease."