Women Need To See Heart Disease Survivors, Advocates Say

More Women Die Each Year From Heart Disease Than All Cancers

More women die of heart disease each year than all cancers combined, but blame and guilt keep survivors from talking frankly about the condition, advocates argue.

Dr. Mary Norine Walsh, a cardiologist with St. Vincent Health, often asks patients to name five women with heart disease, but few can.

"Why can't you? Because they won't come out of the closet because heart disease is something that we blame ourselves for," Walsh said. "We get cancer, it's something that came out of the blue. It's not our fault. Heart disease is viewed as a lifestyle disease."

While it's true that risk factors can increase women's chance of getting heart disease, genetics also play a big role.

"There are two things that affect women differently than men, and that is high blood pressure and diabetes," Walsh said.

Left untreated, women can develop congestive heart failure, where the heart can no longer pump enough blood to the rest of the body.

There is no cure for heart disease and it's the primary reason for heart transplants.

Renee Jones, 63, a diabetic who suffered a heart attack, now works as an advocate with the American Heart Association and has taken steps to protect herself.

"If you're aware, you can start to prevent this problem with heart disease that kills one in three women," Jones said.

Walsh said she'd like to see more women speak up.

"We don't have prominent women saying, 'I'm a survivor. This is what I have. This is how it happened to me,'" she said.

Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.

More Information:

  • National Coalition For Women With Heart Disease
  • Go Red For Women -- American Heart Association
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