Overview: In 2008, more women in the United States died from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than from all forms of cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease, and Alzheimer's disease combined. One in three deaths in women was from CVD. While many women have come to recognize CVD as the leading cause of death in women, more education is needed to convey this message to others, especially high-risk groups like black and Hispanic women. In addition, recent American Heart Association (AHA) surveys have shown that a majority of women believe they can reduce their risk of heart disease through therapies with no established benefit (such as multivitamins and antioxidants, or aspirin in young women), just over half of women said they would call 9-1-1 if experiencing symptoms of heart attack, and few respondents were aware of atypical symptoms of heart attack.
Persistent misunderstandings about CVD in women; new epidemiologic data; and increased awareness of sex differences in the way CVD presents, is evaluated, and responds to treatment prompted the AHA to update its 2007 guidelines for preventing CVD in women, stressing interventions described as “effective” in women, not only “evidence based.” This article explains the shift in emphasis and reports on the highlights of the updated guidelines.