In 1984, there were more women who died of cardiovascular disease than men. Cardiovascular disease has been the number one killer of American women, more than all cancers put together. Women were being treated differently than men, including hormone replacement therapy for high cholesterol instead of the more effective cholesterol-lowering medications called statins. This resulted in thousands more women dying from cardiovascular disease.
In 2001, the American Heart Association started a campaign to increase awareness about heart disease in women. This campaign was named the Go Red for Women campaign in 2003. Lynne Braun PhD, ANP, and I were involved with the inception of the awareness campaign, and we both continue to be involved with Go Red for Women.
In 2003, the Rush Heart Center for Women opened its doors to prevent and treat heart disease in women. In addition to our services, we also offered complimentary nutrition counseling, which we were able to offer through funding from grateful donors. We wanted to give comprehensive evaluation and compassionate care to prevent devastating cardiac events.
Heart disease continues to be the number one killer of American women and men, but there has been tremendous progress over the last decade. Although there are still more women dying from heart disease than men, the gap has significantly decreased. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Rush Heart Center for Women. Since its opening in 2003, we have taken care of thousands of women to treat and prevent heart disease.
In order to accommodate the demand for the services of the Rush Heart Center for Women, two female cardiologists with specialty in heart disease in women — Melissa Tracy, MD, and Charlotte Bai, MD — have joined the center. Heather Rasmussen, PhD, RD, and her team of dietitians continue to advise patients on a healthier lifestyle that complements medical management of patients.
In addition, plans are under way to help women who are at risk for memory problems due to Alzheimer’s disease and other causes of dementias. Neelum Aggarwal, MD, a neurologist specializing in dementias, will join the team to offer evaluation, treatment and prevention of memory problems associated with cardiovascular disease.
Our mission is to help women and their families live healthier lives through prevention and treatment of heart disease and strokes. To show my support for the Go Red for Women campaign, I wear red every day to remind people that there are still more women dying from heart disease than men.
Annabelle S. Volgman, MD, FACC, is professor of medicine and medical director of the Rush Heart Center for Women.