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Women's heart health is often overlooked, a new campaign is raising awareness

A woman dies every 80 seconds from heart disease in the U.S.
Holding heart
Posted at 10:09 PM, Feb 08, 2024

If you click to watch the video clip attached to this article, it will take exactly 2 minutes and 8 seconds. In that time, nearly two women will die from heart disease.

The Women's Heart Alliance estimates that a woman dies from heart disease every 80 seconds in the United States. It's a grim fact that they're highlighting in a new PSA campaign. Reasons include symptoms often being missed or dismissed when a woman has a heart attack, even by doctors.

It's something that Vicky Ventura knows all too well.

"And you know, for 9 years I was given incorrect diagnosis," said Ventura.

She went in and out of doctor's offices telling them she had chest pain. But it kept getting brushed off as something else— even after getting abnormal test results back on her heart.

"So he stated that he was sending me back to my primary physician to have my nerves checked. In other words, it was all in my mind, I was crazy. That's how I took it. So at the time I was very devastated. I felt hopeless, right. I cried and cried and finally, I realized that I needed to be my own advocate because nobody else knows our bodies like we do. So I needed to advocate for myself," said Ventura.

She's not the only woman that's been in this position.

"We definitely know that physicians often overlook women's symptoms and often ask them, are you under a lot of stress, or are you anxious? Additionally, women more likely than men, are given a diagnosis of mental illness when they actually have symptoms of a heart attack," said Dr. Martha Gulati, a cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai and board member of the Women's Heart Alliance.

Dr. Gulati feels advocating for yourself starts with knowing the signs of a heart attack. There are six to focus on— chest pain or pressure, extreme fatigue, nausea or vomiting, jaw, throat, back, or neck pain, heartburn or indigestion, and shortness of breath.

The Women's Heart Alliance has a downloadable phone card with these symptoms listed out, along with prompts for how to talk to your doctor about them.