What Physicians and Women Know About Cardiovascular Disease in Women

Summary and Comment |
July 7, 2017

What Physicians and Women Know About Cardiovascular Disease in Women

  1. Karol E. Watson, MD, PhD, FACC

Awareness is low, and stigma is high.

  1. Karol E. Watson, MD, PhD, FACC

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading killer of women in the U.S., but surveys have revealed that most women were not aware of this fact. To evaluate current-day awareness and attitudes, researchers surveyed both practicing physicians and nonphysician women in 2014.

The 200 primary care physicians (PCPs, including 50 obstetrician/gynecologists) and 100 cardiologists were from an online invitation-only database and were surveyed about their knowledge of cardiovascular risk, risk assessments, and treatment. About 1000 randomly selected, nationally representative women (age range, 25–60; response rate, 43%) were surveyed about cardiovascular risk, health practices, and health behaviors.

Overall, 45% of women were not aware that CVD is the foremost killer of women. Women with personal connections to heart disease had greater awareness, but only about 10% knew a woman who died from CVD. About 25% felt that having CVD was “embarrassing,” and 45% reported that they had canceled or postponed a medical appointment because of self-consciousness about their weight. Fewer than 40% of PCPs rated CVD as their top concern; weight and breast health received higher rankings. Furthermore, only 20% of PCPs and 40% of cardiologists reported being well-prepared to assess CVD risk in women; most did not carry out the risk assessments recommended by the American Heart Association.

Comment

Despite years of public-health campaigns, U.S. women have little awareness of heart disease risk. Even more worrying are the effects of the stigmas against CVD and being overweight. In addition, most physicians did not perform the recommended CVD assessments. Much work is needed to improve physician education and to re-invigorate educational campaigns so that they make CVD “real” to women and destigmatize the disease.

Dr. Watson is the Director of the UCLA Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Health Program, a supporter of this study, but she had no role in conducting this research.

Editor Disclosures at Time of Publication

  • Disclosures for Karol E. Watson, MD, PhD, FACC at time of publication Consultant / Advisory board: Amarin; Amgen; Boehringer Ingelheim Speaker’s bureau: Boehringer Ingelheim Editorial boards: Reviews in Cardiovascular Medicine; Circulation Quality Outcomes; Circulation

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