Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Women and heart disease

In 1997, an American Heart Association survey found that 70% of women didn't know heart disease was the leading cause of death among women. Although this number has fallen, the organization's latest survey shows that fully half of women still aren't aware of this.

The survey, published in the March 2010 issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, also found that

  • only 55% of women surveyed said they would call 911 if they thought they were having a heart attack

  • 51% said family or caregiving responsibilities made it difficult or impossible to take steps against heart disease, such as exercise and healthful eating

  • 32% said they didn't need to take preventive action since they weren't at risk for heart disease

  • 58% said they were trying to prevent heart disease by taking vitamin A, C, or E (none of which has been shown to work against heart disease).

To paraphrase the old Virginia Slims jingle, women have come a long way in their awareness about heart disease. But there's still a long way for them — and for men — to go in fighting this damaging and deadly disease.

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