Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, according to the American Heart Association, causing an estimated 1 in 3 deaths. That amounts to approximately one woman every minute.
Despite the alarming statistics, the assumption that heart problems are more of a “man’s disease” is partly only 54 percent of women fully understand their risk, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And almost two-thirds of women who suddenly die from heart disease reported no previous symptoms, the CDC says.
CVS Health says it wants to be part of the solution to raise awareness among women about heart health. The company announced that it will raise $10 million for cardiovascular research and education as part of American Heart Month over the next three years. Until the end of this month, CVS customers will be asked if they want to make a small donation when they check out as part of this campaign.
The discrepancy between how scientific research dollars are spent on men’s and women’s health problems are one reason why many women lack information on the risks they face from heart disease. Even though more women than men die from heart disease annually, a 2008 study showed that only 10 to 47 percent of the subject pools in 19 clinical trials focused on heart health.
The result is that many women face more heart risks, yet they often find themselves limited by a dearth of information. A report issued several years ago, for example, found that only 33 percent of women who suffered a heart attack underwent surgery, compared to 45 percent of men. That same report also revealed that women had a 44 percent higher chance of dying during heart replacement valve surgery over men.
Another challenge is that women often do not report any heart symptoms until much later in life compared to men – and women frequently have more unusual symptoms than their male counterparts.
Education, as well as offering women more ways to learn to be more attuned to their bodies, could be part of the solution. To that end, CVS Health says it is ready to offer free health screenings, along with other services, at more than 1,100 Minute Clinic locations on Tuesday, Feb. 14. That initiative is one way in which the company says it is making women’s health care more available and accessible – which is necessary at a time where the future of the Affordable Care Act is in doubt, the U.S. population continues to age, and it is becoming more difficult for patients to schedule appointments with primary healthcare providers.
“Many women do not realize that most regular cardiovascular screening tests should begin at age 20, and that knowing your personal health numbers helps you and your health care provider better determine your risk for developing future problems,” Angela Patterson, chief nurse practitioner officer at CVS Health’s MinuteClinic, told TriplePundit in an email.
“By offering free heart health screenings at our MinuteClinic locations this Valentine’s Day, we can help women assess their heart health and make any necessary changes to their lifestyle to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.”
Patients need to be aware of the five factors that can combine to increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke: total cholesterol, HDL or “good” cholesterol, blood sugar, body mask index (BMI) and, of course, blood pressure.
On that last point, CVS and other retail chains could strive to make blood pressure monitors even more affordable and accessible. The cheapest one at CVS is $18. This is a small price to pay to gauge one of the first indicators that something could be amiss with one’s heart. But promoting their use and selling them at a lower cost would be one way in which to help women, and all patients, know more about how they can prevent a debilitating or even deadly heart condition.
Image credit: CVS Health