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USA Today: Let's Hope COVID's Aftermath Is a Wake-Up Call That Ends Neglect of Women's Heart Health

USA Today recently featured an opinion article written by actor, entertainer and philanthropist Barbra Streisand, and Noel Bairey Merz, MD, director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, about the persistent neglect of women's heart health in the U.S.

Streisand and Bairey Merz first joined forces a decade ago to combat deficits in research, treatment and prevention of women's heart disease, which is the #1 killer of women in the U.S.

Deaths from heart disease have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, but awareness and education have not increased. Women must learn about the unique signs of heart attack that they could experience: jaw pain, shortness of breath, backache, extreme fatigue, nausea and dizziness—"far from the stereotypical image of a man clutching his chest in pain," Streisand and Bairey Merz wrote in their USA Today article.

They note that the number of women dying of heart disease has risen each year over the past decade. For example, research conducted at the Smidt Heart Institute found that Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or "broken heart syndrome"—a stress-related event similar to a heart attack—is increasing disproportionately among women.

Streisand and Bairey Merz also expect the COVID-19 pandemic will have a devastating impact on women's heart health. The coronavirus directly affects the cardiovascular system, and a "cresting wave of cardiovascular illness likely will fall disproportionately on women, especially women of color and low-income women," they wrote.

To raise awareness, they proposed a federally supported campaign to educate women about gender differences in symptoms and treatment of cardiovascular disease. "There is no more time—and no more excuses," Streisand and Bairey Merz wrote.

Click here to read the complete opinion column from USA Today.