April 8, 2005

Women’s heart health subject of symposium

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Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

Women’s heart health subject of symposium

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States today, killing approximately one in three women.

Despite being the No. 1 health threat, it wasn't until 2004 that the American Heart Association (AHA) developed guidelines for managing heart disease in women.

“For quite some time, women's heart health has been neglected,” said Lisa Mendes, M.D., director of the Women's Heart Institute at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Although women develop symptomatic heart disease approximately 10 years later in life than men, atherosclerosis, the most common type of heart disease in women and men, can begin to develop in a woman's 20's.

“Since this is in large part a preventable disease, I want women of all ages to understand their risks and make changes in their lifestyles that will prevent them from developing heart disease,” she said.

“With the new AHA guidelines, we now have information that helps guide health professionals towards this goal.”

Mendes will give the keynote address “New Guidelines: Preventing Heart Disease in Women” at the Ann F. Eisenstein Women's Cardiovascular Symposium.

The event, in its sixth year, will be held on Tuesday, April 12 at the Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin and is free and open to the public.

Set to begin at 7:30 a.m. with an optional heart screening, the symposium will highlight various health topics concerning women and heart disease.

A light breakfast will follow at 8 a.m. with keynote address slated for 8:45 a.m. Breakout sessions, set from 9:30-11 a.m., will include:

• The Future of Cardiovascular Intervention.

• Palpitations: What Do They Mean?

• Exercise and Physical Activity for Weight Loss — How Much is Enough?

• Carbs: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.

Mendes said that 80 percent of heart attacks can be prevented by making lifestyle changes and with intervention.

The topics presented at the symposium will inform women of the causes of heart disease and the necessary steps to stop it.

“I want to make it clear to women that they have the power to make a difference in their health,” Mendes said.

“I want them to know they can sit down with their physicians and review these guidelines and determine their risk factors.

“Although women are becoming more aggressive in managing their health, they still need to know their risk factors. I want to get women to think, 'I'm young and this is what I need to know to help me 20 years down the road.'”

Although family history plays a significant role in the development of heart disease, Mendes said it is not among the guidelines issued by the AHA.

The guidelines only highlight the factors that women and the medical community can change or have a positive effect on.

“I just hope that they take away not only the importance of educating themselves, but the need to help educate all women,” she said. “You want them to go out and share the information they learned with their daughters, granddaughters, co-workers, neighbors. Cardiovascular disease is preventable.”