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Journalist's Resource: Five Myths and Realities About Women's Heart Health

Journalist’s Resource a news source based at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, recently featured a report on Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, and her analysis of five myths typically associated with women’s heart health.

Bairey Merz’s commentary was shared during an on-the-record session for the National Press Foundation's 2020 fellows, aimed at educating heralth journalists about cardiac health and breakthroughs. Bairey Merz shared the stage with Martha Gulati, MD, chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix. 

Together with Gulati, Bairey Merz addressed these five common misconceptions about women’s heart health and provided the facts about each inaccuracy:

Myth 1:     Cardiovascular disease is a man’s disease.
Fact:         According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of all women in the United States, roughly 60 million, have cardiovascular disease, which includes coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, stroke and hypertension.

Myth 2:     Women don’t die from cardiovascular disease nearly as often as men do.
Fact:         Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both sexes. In 2017, 418,655 women and 440,460 men died of cardiovascular disease.

Myth 3:     Heart disease looks the same in men and women.
Fact:         Bairey Merz told National Press Foundation fellows that researchers have discovered heart disease in women often looks different, quite literally, than it does in men. For example, plaque on the walls of women’s arteries looks different than the plaque on men’s. Plaque also affects women's arteries differently than it affects men's.

Myth 4:     Men and women both receive the standard of care for cardiovascular disease.
Fact:         Men often are more likely to receive care that follows established guidelines for treating cardiovascular disease than women.

Myth 5:     Women experiencing heart attacks report so-called “atypical” symptoms such as stomach pain, pain in the jaw and heart palpitations, rather than “typical” symptoms like chest pain, pressure or tightness.
Fact:         Research shows that women are actually more likely than men to report typical symptoms, but are also more likely to list a greater number of symptoms.

Click here to read Journalist Resource's complete report on Bairey Merz' presentation.

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Solving Johanna's Heart Attack Mystery