Heart Smart for Women: A Call to Action For Physicians and Our Patients
Heart Smart for Women, a book authored by Jennifer H. Mieres, MD, FACC, and Stacey E. Rosen, MD FACC, is the perfect patient education resource, providing evidence-based and digestible information for women looking to improve their cardiovascular health. More importantly, it is a guide for physicians on how to counsel our patients.
I got my copy of Heart Smart for Women at a "Go Red for Women" American Heart Association (AHA) luncheon. I am currently a second-year cardiology fellow at NYU Langone Health and prior to starting clinical fellowship, I spent two years studying heart disease in women as part of an AHA-sponsored research fellowship. I have spent countless hours reading and learning about the gender gaps that exist in cardiology – with hundreds of studies showing that women are less likely to be diagnosed with heart disease, referred for procedures and prescribed lifesaving medications when compared to men. The gap becomes even wider when considering women of color. Despite my knowledge on the topic, I continue to struggle with how to best educate my patients and even my own family and friends. This book has proven invaluable in my journey to become a fierce advocate for heart health in women.
After reading this book, I lent a copy to my dear aunt. Like so many women, she takes care of everyone else before she takes care of herself. She has long struggled with her weight and has been a victim of diet fads and transient lifestyle trends. She has visited multiple doctors who spent the last two minutes of each visit giving her their standard spiel of "eat more vegetables, eat less salt, see you in six months." She would leave no wiser than when she came, and she would return six months later with a few extra pounds and a deep sense of failure.
A few weeks after I gave her Heart Smart for Women, she called me sounding empowered, "Did you know 80% of heart disease is preventable, I can't believe it!" She had already started implementing the "Six S.T.E.P.S. to heart healthy living." She began keeping a health journal, she was cooking more and eating healthier, and she was walking 30 minutes each day. It occurred to me that the turning point for her was not being told what to do but understanding why she needed to do it. She asked me if she could lend the book to her friends, "I want them all to read it!" I have yet to get my copy back and could not be happier about it. This book is truly a "call to action" for women, and women are listening and taking notes.
It is well-documented that despite cardiovascular disease being the number one killer of women, many women and even many providers still believe this is a male-predominate disease. It is our responsibility as physicians to relay medical knowledge to our patients in a way they will understand but also in a way that will motivate rather than discourage them. I have seen so many physicians get this wrong. In fact, it is shown that women are less likely to return to their physician's office after a discussion about their weight. This book should be considered essential reading for all trainees like myself who strive to do better for our patients.
This article was authored by Anais Hausvater, MD , second-year cardiovascular disease Fellow in Training (FIT) at NYU Langone Health in Manhattan, NY, and co-chair of the NYU Women in Cardiology group.