Better Heart Disease Awareness Among Women Still Needed, Researchers Say

Although awareness among women about heart disease as the leading cause of death has increased in the last 15 years, many still incorrectly believe cancer is the greatest health threat.

Minorities and younger women of all ethnic groups lacked the most awareness, according to a new study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

“This is a missed opportunity,” said Dr. Lori Mosca, lead author of the study, in a news release. “Habits established in younger women can have lifelong rewards. We need to speak to the new generation, and help them understand that living heart healthy is going to help them feel better, not just help them live longer. So often the message is focused on how many women are dying from heart disease, but we need to be talking about how women are going to live – and live healthier.”

Researchers compared the views women have about heart disease today to what they reported in 1997.  Recent surveys included more than 1,200 women ages 25 and older. The surveys collected information about the women’s lifestyles, their awareness of the leading cause of death and heart attack warning signs and how they would act if they had heart attack symptoms.

Among the study’s findings:

  • In 2012, 56 percent of all women knew heart disease was the leading cause of death. In 1997, only 30 percent identified heart disease correctly.
  • But among blacks and Hispanics in 2012, the awareness level was lower. Thirty-six percent of black women and 34 percent of Hispanic women correctly identified heart disease as the No. 1 killer.
  • Women ages 25 to 34 knew the least about heart disease among all age groups. Their awareness rate was 44 percent, according to the study.

Mosca said efforts to educate younger women and minorities who are at higher risk for heart disease need to be tailored so they are age-appropriate and culturally sensitive.

“There are gaps between women’s personal awareness and what they’re doing in terms of preventive steps,” Mosca said.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Sources: American Heart Association news release, Circulation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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