Feature Story, Member Connections Newsletter, Uncategorized

Matters of the Heart

A Q&A with Dr. Jennifer H. Mieres, spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement,  Professor of Cardiology & Population Health at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Northwell Health

Getting to the heart of the matter has always been important to NAPW. From offering the best networking opportunities to providing the most current information available on issues affecting women, we continually strive to keep our members connected and informed.

February is American Heart Month. And with heart disease the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, this month—more than ever—NAPW is committed to arming our members with the knowledge and resources they need to make informed decisions about their own health.

This is also a mission close to the heart of NAPW President Star Jones. About six years ago, Star decided to undergo a full cardiac examination because she hadn’t been feeling quite herself. She was shocked when her doctor informed her she needed open heart surgery. The news was as unexpected as it was scary.

“I was doing everything ‘right’ to stay healthy. I hit the gym regularly and monitored my diet,” says Star. “I took care of my body, rejuvenated my soul. But even though I felt good and looked great, I had been experiencing shortness of breath, light-headiness, frequent intense heart palpitations and extreme fatigue. I knew something was wrong.”

Thankfully, Star’s awareness about her body and her health led her to seek help. As a result, she beat heart disease. Now, as a National Volunteer for the American Heart Association (AHA), one of NAPW’s Foundation Partner, Star helps to raise awareness and make progress toward heart disease prevention. She has made it her mission to empower all women to know the facts about heart disease so they can make heart-healthy lifestyle choices.

To provide our members with the most up-to-date information about women and heart disease, we turned to an expert, Dr. Jennifer H. Mieres. A spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement, Dr. Mieres is Professor of Cardiology & Population Health at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Northwell Health.

Q&A with Dr. Jennifer H. Mieres

NAPW: Heart Disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the US. What is the American Heart Association doing to change this sobering statistic?

Dr. Mieres: More than a decade ago, the American Heart Association recognized that despite the significant advances in the treatment of heart disease, more women were dying from it than men. Recognizing that heart disease is an equal opportunity killer and that there was a significant gap in awareness, prevention, diagnosis and in treatment of heart disease in women, in 2004, the AHA launched the Go Red For Women campaign with the mission of increasing awareness of heart disease as the No. 1 killer of women, increase clinical research and publish guidelines for the medical community on the gender-specific aspects of heart disease. Go Red For Women focuses on educating women about the signs, the symptoms and ways to prevent heart disease. AHA also rolled out Go Red For Women Luncheons nationwide to serve as fundraisers for the vital research and education we know is needed to beat this often silent killer.

NAPW: So many women often put the well-being of their spouses, children and / or parents before their own health. How do we convince women that taking care of themselves is not an act of selfishness but an act of necessity?

Dr. Mieres: The simple truth is that 1 in 3 women will die of heart disease and stroke, that’s one woman every 80 seconds. As women, we always want the best for our families, but to do that we have to be at our best and that means being healthy.

It is important that women schedule time for themselves every day on their calendars.

NAPW: Are heart attack symptoms the same in women as they are in men? Is it easy for a woman to recognize symptoms? What should she be aware of?

Dr. Mieres: Although, generally speaking, most women and men experience chest pain as the sign of a heart attack, there are additional symptoms that occur more frequently in women than they do in men; in many cases, women do not experience a “Hollywood heart attack” like we think of in the movies. That said, if you know the signs—shortness of breath, back pain, jaw pain, nausea, pain or discomfort in one or both arms, uncomfortable chest pressure that lasts more than a few minutes (or even goes away and comes back)—those symptoms can be relatively easy to recognize, despite being largely different from those most often seen in men.

NAPW: How important is it for a woman to know her family health history? What are some other risk factors women should be aware of when it comes to heart disease?

Dr. Mieres: It’s important for women to understand their family health history because, often, many risk factors for heart disease and stroke are hereditary. Having a complete picture of your family’s health history facilitates the early identification of women at risk for heart disease, so that the appropriate treatment strategies (lifestyle changes and medications to control risk factors) can be implemented and you and your doctor can make a decision about your care and treatment now and in the future.

The American Heart Association suggests Life’s Simple 7, which outlines seven possible risk factors for heart disease. They are: manage blood pressure, control cholesterol, reduce blood sugar, get active, eat better, lose weight and stop smoking.

NAPW: What steps can a woman take to arm herself against heart disease?

Dr. Mieres: A woman should schedule a Well-Woman Visit to fully understand her risks for heart disease and stroke with her doctor. A single Well-Woman Visit can give a head-to-heart-to-toe view of a woman’s overall health. Then, a woman should understand her family health history, the signs and symptoms of heart disease, and work to live the heart-healthy life outlined by Life’s Simple 7. She should also share what she’s learned with her family and friends.

To learn even more about how to keep yourself heart healthy, join us on February 19th at 1pm for our Go Red Connect webinar, hosted by Star Jones. Join the webinar, which benefits American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women, and help support the cause, raise funds and receive important updates about women and heart disease. And don’t forget to wear red on Friday, February 5th in support of Go Red for Women!

We want to hear from you! Are you a heart disease survivor? How important do you think it is for women to put their own health first? What steps have you taken to stay heart healthy?

Please leave your comments. When you’re done, keep the conversation going on Facebook and Twitter.

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Megan Bozzuto