Black History Month: African American Firsts

In celebration of Black History Month, below is an updated list from last year of just some of the important African American firsts in American history. Listed in chronological order, you’ll see that several of these “firsts” actually occurred in just the last 25 years.

The First African-American …

1773
Woman (known) to publish a book: Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral

1783
Doctor in the U.S. (unlicensed): Dr. James Durnham purchased his freedom after apprenticing with several doctors and opened his own practice until new laws prohibited him from practicing medicine unlicensed.

thomas jenning1821
Patent holder: Thomas L. Jennings, a ‘dry scouring’ process that was a precursor to modern-day dry cleaning.

1823
College graduate: Alexander Lucius Twilight (Bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College, Vermont)

1837
Medical doctor: James McCune Smith, MD (Graduated from the University of Glasgow in Scotland after being denied admission to American schools.)

1847
Medical doctor to earn a degree from a U.S. medical school: David Jones Peck, Rush Medical College, Chicago, Ill.

1863
Commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy: Robert Smalls

1864
Woman to earn a medical degree: Rebecca Lee Davis Crumpler, MDNew England Female Medical College, Boston, Mass.

1870
U.S. Senator (appointed): Hiram Rhodes Revels (Revels filled the seat left vacant by Jefferson Davis when Mississippi seceded from the Union.)

Mary_Eliza_Mahoney
Mary Eliza Mahoney

1878
Graduate of a formal nursing school: Mary Eliza Mahoney, New England Hospital for Women and Children, Boston, Mass.

1893
Surgeon to perform open heart surgery (of any race): Daniel Hale Williams, MD, Provident Hospital, Chicago, Ill.

1897
Psychiatrist: Solomon Carter Fuller, MD, Boston University School of Medicine

1904
Person to run for the presidency: George Edwin Taylor

1921
Licensed pilot: Bessie Coleman

1940
Oscar winner: Hattie McDaniel, supporting actress for Gone with the Wind

1947
Major league baseball player (20th Century): Jackie Robinson

1953
NFL quarterback: Willie Thrower

1956
Secret Service Agent: Charles LeRoy Gittens

1963-sidney-poitie_oscar
Sidney Poitier

1963
Best Actor Oscar: Sidney Poitier for Lilies of the Field

1966
U.S Senator (elected): Edward Brooke

1967
Astronaut: Robert H. Lawrence, Jr.

1975
MLB manager: Frank Robinson, Cleveland Indians

1992
Woman U.S. Senator: Carol Mosely Braun

condoleezza-rice-lg
Condoleezza Rice

2001
U.S. Secretary of State: Colin Powell
Best Actress Oscar: Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball

2005
Woman Secretary of State: Condoleezza Rice

2009
President: Barack H. Obama, elected Nov. 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Heart Disease Does Not Discriminate

Just before Christmas, people across the world learned that beloved Star Wars actress and best-selling author Carrie Fisher suffered a cardiac emergency while on a flight home to LA. Within a few days, we were all mourning her death.

istock_000019034549_largeDuring this time, media outlets all over the world were reporting on her condition. Some news stories reported she suffered a heart attack; others reported she suffered a cardiac arrest. And many simply used both of those terms interchangeably.

But is there a difference?

Definitely.

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction (MI), occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart becomes partially or completely blocked. This happens because the coronary arteries can become narrowed from a build up of fat, cholesterol and other substances, called plaque. When the plaque breaks, a blood clot forms around the plaque and can block the blood flow.

Recovery from a heart attack depends on the length of time the heart muscle is without blood flow, which heart vessel is blocked, and whether or not treatment is immediately started. Emergency care is required for a heart attack. So if you have symptoms, get to an emergency room immediately. And don’t drive! When at all possible, call 911 for an ambulance. Paramedics will have equipment to help treat you on the way to the hospital and can get you there quicker.


Every 34 seconds, someone dies from heart and blood vessel diseases, America’s No. 1 killer. 


A cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and stops beating or ‘arrests’. Death occurs in minutes after the heart stops because oxygen-enriched blood is no longer flowing through the body. In some instances, immediately performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED) can help provide oxygen to the body and get the heart started again.

cardiacarrest-heartattack.jpg

In the instance of Ms. Fisher, witnesses on the airplane have said that she stopped breathing for 10-15 minutes. Passengers, trained in CPR, tried to revive her and when the plane landed, paramedics continued to provide advanced life support on the way to the hospital.

However, the amount of time she was without oxygen proved to be irreversible. A death certificate issued by the LA County Department of Health confirmed that her cause of death was cardiac arrest. What may have contributed to her heart stopping is still being determined.

Carrie Fisher’s death, as well as the death of her mother just a few days later from a stroke, highlights the importance of raising awareness of heart disease in women. While we don’t know if Fisher had any symptoms prior to boarding a plane that day, what we can take from this is that it can happen to anyone. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women and it sometimes has no symptoms, which is why it is called the silent killer.

grfw_aha_liw_v_macy_krSo, during this American Heart Month, we would like to encourage women (and men) to take care of their hearts. Get regular checkups. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to stay healthy. If you are in a higher risk group, or if you have a family history of heart disease, ask you doctor what you can do to lower that risk.

To find a cardiologist at Mercy Health System, visit our website and use our Find a Doctor tool at www.mercyhealth.org/find-a-doctor.

Sources: American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Mercy Health System Articles:

Heart disease: What every woman needs to know

Heart attacks in women. Yes, they happen

Don’t ignore heart attack symptoms

Q&A: Chest pain. When is it an emergency?


More Information:

Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

Warning Signs of a Heart Attack

Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs

Heart Attack Tools and Resources

 

Wellness Wednesday: Screening for Cervical Cancer

As we said last week, more than 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide. But since it is usually slow developing, it is one of the most preventable types of cancer.

prevent-cervical-cancerJust this week, we learned that Erin Andrews, Fox sportscaster and co-host of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, had surgery for cervical cancer last fall. Her cancer was discovered during a routine exam, after which she had two surgical procedures and was given the all clear by her physician.

This highlights the importance of routine screenings for all women. With the proper screening and routine examinations, this type of cancer can be found in its early stages, and women can make a complete recovery.

Cervical cancer usually develops slowly over time. Before cancer appears in the cervix, the cells of the cervix go through changes known as dysplasia, in which abnormal cells begin to appear in the cervical tissue. Over time, the abnormal cells may become cancer cells and start to grow and spread more deeply into the cervix and to surrounding areas.

What is Cervical Cancer Screening?

Early cervical cancer may not cause signs or symptoms. Women should have regular check-ups, including tests to check for human papillomavirus (HPV) or abnormal cells in the cervix.

  • A Pap test (or Pap smear) looks for pre-cancers or cell changes on the cervix that might become cervical cancer if they are not treated appropriately.
  • The HPV test looks for the virus (human papillomavirus) that can cause these cell changes.

A Pap test is recommended for all women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old, and can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. During the Pap test, the doctor will collect a few cells and mucus from the cervix and the area around it. The cells are then placed on a slide or in a bottle of liquid and sent to a laboratory. If you get the HPV test along with the Pap test, the cells collected during the Pap test will be tested for HPV at the laboratory.

Screening Recommendations

jo2012041201The American Cancer Society recommends that all women begin cervical cancer testing screening at age 21. Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used for screening in this age group.

The Pap test, which screens for cervical cancer, is one of the most reliable and effective cancer screening tests available. However, it only screens for cervical cancer, and cannot detect uterine, ovarian or other reproductive cancers.

Women age 30-65 should be screened with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every 5 years or tested every 3 years with just the Pap test. Women who are at high risk for cervical cancer should be screened more often. You should speak to your doctor to determine your risk.

Women over 65 years of age who have had regular screenings in the previous 10 years should stop cervical cancer screening as long as they haven’t had any serious pre-cancers found in the last 20 years.

Low Cost Screenings

The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) provides breast and cervical cancer early detection testing to low-income, underserved, under-insured, and uninsured women in the U.S.

If you are looking for a Mercy Health System gynecologist, please visit our website and use our Find a Doctor tool.

Sources: National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


More Information:

National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP)

American Cancer Society Screening Guidelines

Testing for Cervical Cancer [PDF]

Wellness Wednesday: Finding Cervical Cancer Early

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. No one wants to talk about cervical cancer; but we should. Because it is highly preventable and when found early, it is also one of the most treatable cancer types.

Multiracial group of mature woman at fitness centerMore than 12,000 women in the U.S. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and more than 4,000 of women die. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer for women worldwide. But because it develops over time, it is also one of the most preventable types of cancer.

Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can spread to other areas of the body. Cervical cancer starts in the cells lining the cervix—the lower part of the uterus. These cells do not suddenly change into cancer. Instead, the normal cells of the cervix first gradually develop pre-cancerous changes that turn into cancer.

Although cervical cancers start from cells with pre-cancerous changes, only some will develop into cancer. It usually takes several years for cervical pre-cancer to change to cervical cancer, but it also can happen in less than a year. Cervical pre-cancers are diagnosed far more often than invasive cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer death for American women. But over the last 40 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50 percent. The main reason for this change was the increased use of the Pap test. This screening procedure can find changes in the cervix before cancer develops. It can also find cervical cancer early—when it is in its most curable stage.

The American Cancer Society′s estimates for cervical cancer in the U.S. for 2017 are:

  • About 12,820 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed.
  • About 4,210 women will die from cervical cancer.

Risk Factors

Friends having funThere are many risk factors which may increase the odds of developing cervical cancer. Some of these include:

Screening Recommendations

The American Cancer Society recommends that women follow these guidelines to help find cervical cancer early. Following these guidelines can also find pre-cancers, which can be treated to keep cervical cancer from forming.

  • Women aged 21 to 29, should have a Pap test every 3 years. HPV testing should not be used for screening in this age group (it may be used as a part of follow-up for an abnormal Pap test).
  • Beginning at age 30, the preferred way to screen is with a Pap test combined with an HPV test every 5 years. This should continue until age 65.
  • Another reasonable option for women 30 to 65 is to get tested every 3 years with just the Pap test.

Sources: NCCC, American Cancer Society


More Information

MHS Health Library: Cervical Cancer

NCCC Cervical Cancer

CDC Cervical Cancer

American Cancer Society Cervical Cancer Guide

Wellness Wednesday: Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease

One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease. And almost two-thirds of them are women. It is estimated that a total of 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease today.

Home healthcare nurse giving medications to senior adult woman.These numbers are predicted to escalate rapidly as the baby boom generation reaches age 65 and beyond. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5.2 million to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease. Previous estimates based on high range projections of population growth provided by the U.S. Census suggest that this number may be as high as 16 million.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s.

Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., but recent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.

Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type.

Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living.

Alzheimer’s Symptoms

Just like the rest of our bodies, our brains change as we age. Most of us eventually notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems with remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work may be a sign that brain cells are failing.

The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information.

Alzheimer’s changes typically begin in the part of the brain that affects learning. As Alzheimer’s advances through the brain it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including disorientation, mood and behavior changes; deepening confusion about events, time and place; unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers; more serious memory loss and behavior changes; and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

People with memory loss or other possible signs of Alzheimer’s may find it hard to recognize they have a problem. Signs of dementia may be more obvious to family members or friends. Anyone experiencing dementia-like symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible.

People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimer’s or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or a non-Alzheimer’s dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.

Prevalence

An estimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2016.

  • alz-risksAn estimated 5.2 million are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer’s).
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Of the 5.4 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the U.S., 3.3 million are women and 1.9 million are men.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias grow each year as the size and proportion of the U.S. population age 65 and older continue to increase. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5.2 million to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.

61 percent of those with Alzheimer’s are expected to die before age 80 compared with 30 percent of those without Alzheimer’s.

As the population of the U.S. ages, Alzheimer’s is becoming a more common cause of death. Although deaths from other major causes have decreased significantly, official records indicate that deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased significantly. Between 2000 and 2013, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease increased 71 percent.


Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.


Cost of Alzheimer’s

In 2015, caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of unpaid assistance, a contribution to the nation valued at $221.3 billion.

  • About one in three caregivers is age 65 or older.
  • Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women. More specifically, over one-third of dementia caregivers are daughters.
  • Forty-one percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
  • Over half of primary caregivers of people with dementia take care of parents.
  • It is estimated that 250,000 children and young adults between ages 8 and 18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.

Alzheimer’s takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; about 40 percent suffer from depression. The physical and emotional impact of dementia caregiving is estimated to have resulted in $10.2 billion in health care costs in the United States in 2015.

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the costliest chronic diseases to society.

  • Total payments for health care, long-term care and hospice are estimated to be $236 billion in 2016 for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
  • Medicare and Medicaid are expected to cover only 68 percent of the total health care and long-term care payments for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
  • Nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In 2050, it will be one in every three dollars.

Unless something is done, in 2050, Alzheimer’s is projected to cost over $1.1 trillion (in 2016 dollars).

Sources: NIH National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s Association


More Information:

Alzheimer’s Association

Alzheimers Warning Signs

Alzheimer’s Disease Facts & Figures Infographic

2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures

NIH Alzheimer’s Fact Sheet

Wellness Wednesday: There are Breast Cancer Risk Factors You Can Control

Many risk factors can increase your chance of developing breast cancer, but it is not yet known exactly how some of these risk factors cause cells to become cancerous. Hormones seem to play a role in many cases of breast cancer, but just how this happens is not fully understood.

breastcancereventNormal breast cells become cancerous because of changes in DNA. Some DNA changes are inherited. This means they are in every cell in your body and can dramatically increase the risk for developing certain cancers. They are responsible for many of the cancers that run in some families. But most DNA changes related to breast cancer are acquired in breast cells during a woman’s life rather than having been inherited.

There is no sure way to prevent breast cancer. You can’t change some factors, such as getting older or your family history. But there are things you can do that might lower your risk, such as changing risk factors that you can control.

Body weight, physical activity and diet have all been linked to breast cancer, so these might be areas where you can take action. Read the American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention to learn more.


“Controllable” Risk Factors

Drinking alcohol

Drinking alcohol is clearly linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. Compared with non-drinkers, women who have 1 alcoholic drink a day have a very small increase in risk. Those who have 2 to 5 drinks daily have about 1½ times the risk of women who don’t drink alcohol. Excessive alcohol consumption is known to increase the risk of other cancers, too.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women have no more than one alcoholic drink a day. A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Being overweight or obese

Being overweight or obese after menopause increases breast cancer risk. Before menopause, most estrogen is made in the ovaries, and fat tissue makes only a small amount. After menopause, most of a woman’s estrogen comes from fat tissue. Having more fat tissue after menopause can raise estrogen levels and increase your chance of getting breast cancer. Also, women who are overweight tend to have higher blood insulin levels. Higher insulin levels have been linked to some cancers, including breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends you stay at a healthy weight throughout your life by balancing your food intake with physical activity and avoiding excessive weight gain.

Senior women exercising in the parkPhysical activity

Evidence is growing that exercise reduces breast cancer risk. But how much is needed to make a difference? In one study from the Women’s Health Initiative, as little as 1¼ to 2½ hours per week of brisk walking reduced a woman’s risk by 18 percent. Walking 10 hours a week reduced the risk a little more.

To reduce your risk of breast cancer, the American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week.

Having children

Women who have not had children or who had their first child after age 30 have a slightly higher breast cancer risk overall. Having multiple pregnancies and becoming pregnant at an early age reduces overall breast cancer risk  Still, the effect of pregnancy is different for different types of breast cancer.

Breastfeeding

Some studies suggest that breastfeeding may slightly lower breast cancer risk, especially if it’s continued for 1½ to 2 years. The explanation for this possible effect may be that breastfeeding reduces a woman’s total number of lifetime menstrual cycles. Women who choose to breastfeed for at even the first several months may also get an added benefit of reducing their breast cancer risk.

Birth control

Studies have found that women using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer than women who have never used them. Once the pills are stopped, this risk seems to go back to normal over time.

Hormone therapy after menopause

Hormone therapy with estrogen (often combined with progesterone) has been used for many years to help relieve symptoms of menopause and help prevent osteoporosis. There are two main types of hormone therapy.

Combined hormone therapy (HT): Use of HT after menopause increases the risk of breast cancer. It may also increase the chances of dying from breast cancer. This increase in risk can be seen with as little as two (2) years of use. Combined HT also increases the likelihood that the cancer may be found at a more advanced stage. The decision to use HT should be made by a woman and her doctor after weighing the possible risks and benefits (including the severity of her menopausal symptoms), and considering her other risk factors for heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis.

Estrogen therapy (ET): The use of estrogen alone after menopause does not seem to increase the risk of breast cancer much, if at all. But when used long term (for more than 10 years), ET has been found to increase the risk of ovarian and breast cancer in some studies.


Uncontrollable Risk Factors

The main risk factors for breast cancer are things you cannot change: being a woman, getting older, and having certain gene changes. These make your risk of breast cancer higher. But having a risk factor, or even many, does not mean that you are sure to get the disease.

istock_000006637453_largeBeing a woman

Men can have breast cancer; but this disease is about 100 times more common in women than in men. This might be because men have less of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can promote breast cancer cell growth.

Getting older

As you get older, your risk of breast cancer goes up. Most invasive breast cancers are found in women age 55 and older.

Certain inherited genes

About 5% to 10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary, meaning that they result directly from gene defects (called mutations) passed on from a parent.

Early menstruation or late menopause

Women who have had more menstrual cycles because they started menstruating early (before age 12) or because they went through menopause later (after age 55) have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer. The increase in risk may be due to a longer lifetime exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Having radiation to your chest

Women who as children or young adults were treated with radiation therapy to the chest for another cancer have a significantly higher risk for breast cancer. This varies with the patient’s age when they got radiation. And if you had chemotherapy with the radiation, it might have stopped ovarian hormone production for some time, which lowers the risk.


Conclusion

Most women who have one or more breast cancer risk factors never develop breast cancer, while many women with breast cancer have no known risk factors (other than being a woman and growing older). Even when a woman with risk factors develops breast cancer, it’s hard to know just how much these factors might have contributed.

The most important thing is to know your body and ask your doctor about any changes you might notice. Do breast self exams and don′t forget to schedule a mammogram. Preventive screenings are the best way to detect breast cancer early, when it is more easily and successfully treatable. Mammography can detect changes in breast tissue before you can even feel it.

The American Cancer Society released new recommendations* in 2015 for screening mammograms for women at average risk for breast cancer.

Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms if they wish to do so. The risks of screening as well as the potential benefits should be considered.

Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.

Women age 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or have the choice to continue yearly screening.

Mercy Health System offers free walk-in screening mammograms at Mercy Fitzgerald and Mercy Philadelphia Hospital each week. No appointment is necessary.

Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital Walk-In Screening Mammograms

breast-cancer-ribbonSr. Marie Lenahan Wellness Center
Women’s Imaging Suite
Every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Physician prescription, insurance card and photo ID required.
For more information, call 610.237.2525.

Mercy Philadelphia Hospital Walk-In Screening Mammograms

Medical Office Building
Radiology Registration
Wednesdays & Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Physician prescription, insurance card and photo ID required.
For more information, call 610.237.2525.

Sources: American Cancer Society, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

*Leading organizations differ on their recommendations for when to begin screening for mammography. This information should be reviewed with your personal physician to determine when is the right time for you to begin a screening regimen. 


Watch Mercy Health System’s 2016 Pink Glove Dance to support National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!


More Information

What Is Breast Cancer Screening?
Risk Factors for Breast Cancer in Young Women
Breast Cancer Risk Factors Breast Cancer Risk Factors [breastcancer.org]
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Risk Factors Table

Wellness Wednesday: The Facts About Women and Heart Disease

Do you know what causes heart disease in women? What the survival rate is? Or whether women of all ethnicities share the same risk?

The fact is: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute!

go-red-for-women

But it doesn’t affect all women alike, and the warning signs for women aren’t the same in men. There are a several myths and misconceptions about heart disease in women, and they could be putting you at risk.

Myth: Heart disease is for men, and cancer is the real threat for women

Fact: Heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease claims the lives of 1 in 3. That’s roughly one death each minute.

Myth: Heart disease is for old people

Fact: Heart disease affects women of all ages.  For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. And while the risks do increase with age, things like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. But even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.

Myth: Heart disease doesn’t affect women who are fit

Fact: Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance your other healthy habits. You can be thin and have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. And while you’re at it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.

Myth: I don’t have any symptoms

Fact: Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Because these symptoms vary greatly between men and women, they’re often misunderstood. Media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But in reality, women are somewhat more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.

Myth: Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do about it

Fact: Although women with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, there’s plenty you can do to dramatically reduce it. Simply create an action plan to keep your heart healthy.

Because of healthy choices and knowing the signs, more than 670,000 of women have been saved from heart disease, and 300 fewer are dying per day. What’s stopping you from taking action?

Source: American Heart Association


Women and Heart Disease Statistics

General Statistics

  • GRFW_CMYK_2CSHeart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
  • Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
  • An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease.
  • Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women and men, and are often misunderstood.
  • While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.
  • Only 1 in 5 American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
  • Women comprise only 24 percent of participants in all heart-related studies.

Hispanic women

  • Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
  • Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.
  • Only 3 in 10 Hispanic women say they have been informed that they are at a higher risk.
  • Only 1 in 4 Hispanic women is aware of treatment options.
  • Hispanic women are more likely to take preventive actions for their family when it comes to heart health.

African American women

  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for African American women.
  • Of African American women ages 20 and older, 46.9 percent have cardiovascular disease.
  • Only 1 in 5 African American women thinks she is personally at risk.
  • Nearly 50 percent of African American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Only 43 percent of African American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk.

These statistics represent only a fraction of the 2012 report featured in Circulation. To view the full findings, download a copy of the Heart Disease and Stroke 2012 Statistical Update.

Source: American Heart Association