CVD Awareness Among Women and Their Physicians
What are the barriers and opportunities to improve awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD) among women and the physicians caring for them?
The Women’s Heart Alliance conducted a nationwide survey of women and physicians in 2014. The aim was to assess barriers and opportunities to improve awareness of CVD among women. Between September 18-26, 2014, a total of 1,011 women residing in the United States who were between the ages of 25 and 60 years of age were interviewed using the GfK Knowledge Panel. Physicians, including 200 primary care and 100 cardiologists, were interviewed between May 6-12, 2014 using the e-Rewards Inc. Physician and Healthcare Professional Panel.
Overall, 45% of all women surveyed reported being unaware that CVD was the leading cause of death for women. Only 11% knew of a woman who had died due to CVD. Approximately 71% of women did not mention heart health during a visit with a physician. The majority of women did not know that risk factors including diabetes, autoimmune disease, pregnancy complications, or early menopause were associated with an increased risk for heart disease. A majority also did not know the common symptoms of a heart attack. More than one half of women reported canceling or postponing a physician appointment until they had lost weight. For physicians, only 39% reported that CVD was a top concern for women’s health; this was a lower concern for physicians than weight or breast health. Only a minority of physicians (22% of primary care physicians and 42% of cardiologists) felt well prepared to assess women’s CVD risk. Most reported infrequently using guidelines. Only 16% of primary care physicians and 22% of cardiologists reported implementing all eight of the American Heart Association guidelines for CVD risk assessment in women, including taking a history of pregnancy-related conditions.
The authors concluded that CVD in women was not the top concern for women or physicians. Social stigma, particularly regarding body weight, appears to be a barrier. Physicians reported limited training and use of guideline assessment, while a majority supported a campaign and improved physician education. Campaigns should make CVD ‘real’ to US women, countering stereotypes with facts and validated assessments. Both community women and physicians endorsed investment in women’s CVD research and physician education.
These data suggest that we have a long way to go to educate and train both women and their physicians on the risk and symptoms of heart disease among women. Efforts to improve both the reach of public health campaigns and to improve risk assessment for women by physicians are warranted.
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