In a struggling economy that could force some women to make tough choices on healthcare, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Congresswomen Lois Capps (D-CA) and Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) today reintroduced legislation that would expand access to screening and lifestyle counseling for low-income and uninsured women, including those who may have recently lost their jobs and health benefits.
The Heart disease Education, Research and Analysis, and Treatment (HEART) for Women Act would expand eligibility for funding to all 50 states for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's WISEWOMAN screening program for low-income, underinsured uninsured women. Currently the program is available in only 20 states. The legislation would educate both women and health care providers about the prevention and diagnosis of heart disease in women and the most effective treatments. It would also tighten Food and Drug Administration requirements for reporting sex and race-based data about new medicines and devices.
"Heart disease is the number one killer of women in this country," said Senator Stabenow. "Too many of our daughters, mothers, and grandmothers are falling victim to this terrible disease. But the reality is that a majority of women and physicians are unfamiliar with the symptoms, diagnoses, and dangers of heart disease in women. The HEART for Women Act will help educate women and their doctors, increase access to screenings for women, and expand gender specific analysis and research, so we are better equipped to fight this disease and save lives."
"Cardiovascular disease, often called the "silent killer", takes the life of one woman nearly every minute," said Senator Murkowski. "The HEART for Women Act uses a multi-pronged approach - arming medical providers with the safest and most effective cardiovascular treatments for women and giving more women access to the WISEWOMAN program that provides free heart disease and stroke prevention screening to low-income, uninsured women. Passage of this legislation will ensure that providers have greater access to life-saving drugs and screening services to prevent the rise of cardiovascular disease in women."
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) claims the lives of 455,000 women each year, or approximately one death each minute. It kills more women than the next five causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. Even though more women than men die from heart disease each year, 43 percent of women are unaware that CVD is the leading cause of death in women, according to an American Heart Association survey. And 90 percent of primary care physicians are also unaware that heart disease kills more women than men each year.
"While we have made great progress in the fight against heart disease it remains the number one killer of American women, needlessly claiming the lives of far too many of our mothers, sisters, and daughters," said Representative Capps, a registered nurse. "Unfortunately not enough people -- including health professionals -- recognize that heart disease poses such a serious threat to women's health and far too many women pay a terrible price for that lack of knowledge. Our legislation addresses the critical knowledge gap by ensuring that health care professionals are informed about the risks of cardiovascular disease in women, know how this disease affects women differently than men, and are better equipped to diagnose heart disease in women.
By providing access to high quality screenings for heart disease and stroke we can help women across the country secure an early diagnosis of the disease and receive effective treatment."
"Women need to be more aware about what they can do to prevent and treat heart disease and lead healthier lives," said Representative Bono Mack. "Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in our country. While more and more men are seeking treatment for cardiovascular diseases, a significantly smaller percentage of women are getting the help they need. This legislation addresses this disparity through a multifaceted approach that will improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of heart disease and stroke. I am proud to join my colleagues in this important effort that could save millions of lives."
The HEART for Women Act is endorsed by a number of leading health and women's organizations, including the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, WomenHeart, the Society for Women's Health Research, and the Association for Black Cardiologists.
"Women's heart health is of utmost importance especially during a time when Americans are likely foregoing medical care and preventive services because of the sluggish economy," said Timothy J. Gardner, M.D., American Heart Association President. "We simply cannot afford to let more women die needlessly from a largely preventable disease. The reintroduction of the HEART for Women Act will help ensure that low income, uninsured and underinsured women have access to free CVD screening and lifestyle counseling to help combat this deadly disease."
"The Society for Women's Health Research feels strongly that that HEART Act for Women will finally require the FDA to provide women with the important information they need regarding sex and race based differences in new medicines and devices," said Phyllis Greenberger, M.S.W., President and CEO, Society for Women's Health Research. "The HEART Act will improve the lives of women with heart disease by helping them receive the most appropriate treatment."
"A woman is twice as likely as a man to die in the year following a heart attack simply because she is not getting equal care and treatment," said Carol Allred, president of WomenHeart, the only national education and advocacy organization solely dedicated to promoting women's heart health. "The HEART for Women Act is critical legislation that supports WomenHeart's ongoing efforts to level the playing field in heart disease, where women aren't just losing the game; they are losing their lives."
For more information, visit www.americanheart.org/heartforwomen.