Profiles Women’s Heart Health
Getting to the Heart of Women’s Health Issues
To better understand the unique challenges surrounding women and cardiovascular disease, Abbott recently launched the Women’s Heart Health Initiative, an educational program to increase heart disease awareness in women and their health care providers. Members of the Indian Menopausal Society discuss screening patients for heart risk factors during routine visits.
As part of the Women’s Heart Health Initiative, cardiologist Sudhir Mungee, M.D., trains health care providers in India to screen women for heart disease risk factors.
Women typically experience heart problems approximately a decade later than men. When women do experience heart disease, they often suffer from accompanying diseases such as hypertension and diabetes. In addition, women tend to have smaller and more contorted blood vessels than men, which makes heart surgery and stent placement more complicated. As a result of all these factors, women often have more complications and difficulty recovering from heart surgery than men.
To better understand the unique challenges surrounding women and cardiovascular disease, Abbott in 2009 launched the Women’s Heart Health Initiative (WHHI), a comprehensive educational program to increase cardiovascular disease awareness in women and their health care providers, while simultaneously researching ways to close the gap in interventional cardiology outcomes in men and women.
The SPIRIT WOMEN clinical trial – designed by Abbott to study the performance of our XIENCE V stent in female patients – was among the first clinical studies to focus solely on women. Data from SPIRIT WOMEN built on findings from earlier trials showing that even though women with heart disease continue to have higher incidences of other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension, they can still experience equally good outcomes as men when using the XIENCE V stent.
Building a New Tool to Raise Awareness
Having the right medical device to treat female stent patients is only part of the solution to improving women’s heart health. A bigger challenge may be convincing women that they need to be concerned about heart health issues. Many women still believe that breast cancer is the number-one killer of women, but evidence shows that heart disease kills ten times as many women per year as all cancers combined. The WHHI is designed to help health care professionals close this awareness gap through increased education in a variety of settings.
Recognizing that many women around the world use their obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) as their primary care physician, the WHHI worked with the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions (SCAI) to develop a heart disease screening tool that OB/GYNs can use to uncover the presence of heart disease risk factors among their female patients. The goal was to raise awareness of the scope of the women’s heart disease problem within the OB/GYN community so that OB/GYN doctors could, in turn, teach their patients – and refer them if necessary to cardiologists for further care and testing.
Preliminary results of the screening from one OB/GYN clinic in Peoria, Illinois, indicated that only 18 percent of patients knew all their risk factors for heart disease. Due to the efforts of WHHI and SCAI, interest in the heart disease screening tool is growing among OB/GYNs. Meanwhile, the campaign to raise awareness of heart disease risks among women was given a boost when the North American Menopause Society recently recognized heart disease as an important factor in women’s health.
A Global Effort to Raise Awareness of Women’s Heart Health
Awareness of women’s heart health issues may be gaining traction in the United States, but the challenge is even greater in developing nations such as India. Recent data suggest that as much as 60 percent of the world’s heart disease occurs in India. Yet many women in India who follow a vegetarian diet are under the impression that they do not need to worry about heart disease.
Eager to start making inroads in countering this trend, Abbott and WHHI arranged for Sudhir Mungee, M.D., an interventional cardiologist based in Illinois, to give a talk about the issue before 75 OB/GYN doctors at a recent meeting of the Indian Menopausal Society in Indore, India. Dr. Mungee found that his audience enthusiastically supported the idea of screening women for heart disease risk factors during OB/GYN visits. In fact, the Indian OB/GYNs in attendance expressed interest in launching a local research project to assess the prevalence of risk factors among the female population in their states.
Meanwhile, in Malaysia, Robaayah Zambahari, M.D., has worked with Abbott and WHHI to assist in her national GO RED educational and screening campaign to raise awareness about women’s heart health issues in Southeast Asia.
Note: All data in the Global Citizenship section reflects activities prior to the separation of Abbott and AbbVie on January 1, 2013.