Tag: Womens health

An Urgent Call to Raise Awareness of Heart Disease in Women


There is a dire need to raise awareness about heart disease in women. It is the number one killer of American women, and key data points reveal a lack of cognizance among doctors and women.

An assessment of primary care physicians published in 2019 revealed that only 22% felt extremely well prepared to evaluate cardiovascular disease risks in female patients. A 2019 survey of American women showed that just 44% recognized heart disease as the number one cause of death in women. Ten years earlier, in 2009, the same survey found that 65% of American women recognized heart disease as the leading cause of female death, revealing an alarming decline in awareness. 

Recent evidence suggests that many adults don’t know the important health numbers that can help identify heart disease risk factors, like their blood sugar and cholesterol. A 2024 survey of American adults conducted by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that only 35% of adults knew their blood pressure and 16% of adults knew their cholesterol levels. In comparison, the study reported that 58% knew their childhood friend’s birthday.

Heart Disease Risk Factors in Women

Women have specific risk factors for heart disease that don’t pertain to men. Nanette Wenger, M.D., a cardiologist and researcher, said in an American Heart Association (AHA) statement, “For most of the last century, heart disease was considered a problem for men, and women were believed to have cardioprotective benefits from female sex hormones such as estrogen. However, emerging evidence shows that there are a substantial number of heart disease risk factors that are specific to women or predominant in women.” Some gender-specific risk factors outlined by the AHA are early onset of menstruation, early menopause, autoimmune disease, anxiety, depression, and pregnancy complications.

Bethany Barone Gibbs, Ph.D., an associate professor at West Virginia University, emphasized in an email that pregnancy is a “critical window” for women’s cardiovascular health. She said, “The cardiovascular and metabolic challenge of pregnancy may unmask risk for conditions like hypertension and diabetes, but it is also possible (though not yet clear) that experiencing an adverse pregnancy outcome may independently contribute to the development of maternal cardiovascular disease.” A history of adverse pregnancy outcomes can be associated with more than two times the risk of cardiovascular disease later in life, she explained. 

Filling in knowledge gaps regarding the connections between pregnancy and long-term cardiovascular health is important to improving outcomes.

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This Mother’s Day, Let’s Get Mothers the Health Care Coverage They Need


Mothers deserve more than a day of recognition this year—they deserve the whole month, and more. The pandemic has been particularly hard on women, especially poor women and women of color. 

To demonstrate the appreciation mothers deserve this Mother’s Day, we should get them something they really need: health care. To improve maternal health, we should look to the Medicaid program, long a pathway to accessible, quality health care for low-income Americans. Medicaid is especially important for mothers; it covers close to half of all births in the U.S.

Now, states have the opportunity to do even more for moms.

The American Rescue Plan signed into law in March gives every state the option to extend Medicaid maternity coverage for up to 12 months postpartum, a significant increase from the current limit of just 60 days. Illinois has already announced it will extend postpartum coverage; other states should follow. Extending the guaranteed coverage period will increase access to postnatal care during this ‘fourth trimester’ to ensure that women can access treatment for common conditions like postpartum depression as well as preventing organ prolapse or hemorrhage. Not only mothers will benefit. Parental insurance is associated with better health for children, including a lower risk of adverse childhood experiences.

In addition, the American Rescue Plan offers an opening to expand Medicaid with even more federal funding than is currently available through the Affordable Care Act. The 12 states, mostly in the South, that have not expanded their Medicaid programs are  leaving hundreds of thousands of women without the support they deserve. 

Expanding Medicaid programs will provide robust access to health care to more women and reduce maternal morbidity and mortality, which has reached crisis proportions among many women of color. Black and Indigenous women are more likely than other women to die during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. According to the CDC, the maternal mortality rate is 2.5 times higher for Black women than white women. Disparate access and uneven quality of care, higher rates of chronic illness, and racism all play a part in that grim statistic.

The disproportionate burden of maternal mortality and adverse outcomes from childbirth has long-lasting effects on mothers and their children. Black newborns have an increased risk for long-term complications resulting from pre-birth complications. They may also face generational poverty and trauma in the long run if they are born to a mother who dies during childbirth.

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