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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Location: Washington, DC


By Ms. STABENOW (for herself and Ms. MURKOWSKI):

S. 2278. A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases in women; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the ``HEART for Women Act of 2006.'' I want to thank Senator LISA MURKOWSKI for joining me on this important legislation. I am also pleased that Congresswomen LOIS CAPPS and BARBARA CUBIN are introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

We face an alarming situation in this country. While over the last 25 years we have made good progress in reducing the death rate for men with heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases, the same does not hold true for women. Not only have we not lowered the cardiovascular disease mortality rate for women--the death rate has actually gone up for women during that same period.

A lot of people think of heart disease as a ``man's disease.'' But while heart disease is certainly a significant problem for men, it is an equally important problem for women.

Fact: Heart disease and stroke actually kill more women each year than men.

Fact: Heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases are the number 1 killer in the United States and in my home State of Michigan. In Michigan, 43 percent of all deaths in women are due to cardiovascular disease.

Fact: 1 in 3 adult women has some form of cardiovascular disease.

Fact: Minority women, particularly African American, Hispanic and Native American women are at even greater risk from heart disease and stroke.

The first step in addressing any problem is acknowledging it--that's why efforts to educate women about their risk of heart disease are so important.

The good news is that we have made progress in educating women: nearly half of women can now identify heart disease as the leading cause of death in women. The bad news is that while women are now more aware of their risk of heart disease many of their doctors are not.

Astoundingly, 4 out of 5 doctors do not know that more women die of heart disease each year than men. Those numbers are alarming because doctors decide how aggressively to treat their patients based on the amount of risk they perceive for that patient.

I suspect we all know women who have been to their doctors or to emergency rooms exhibiting symptoms of a heart attack, only to be told they were suffering from ``stress'' or indigestion.

As a result, women don't get the same care that men do. Even though women make up 53 percent of all deaths from cardiovascular disease, they receive only 33 percent of coronary interventions such as angioplasties and stints.

Likewise, 61 percent of total stroke deaths are in women, but only 38 percent of the procedures to prevent stroke are performed on women.

And when women do receive treatment, it is often based on research that was solely done on men. For too many years, everyone has just assumed that treatments that are effective for men work equally well in women.

But now we know that gender really does make a difference. Diagnostic tests, prescription drugs, and medical devices may work differently in women than in men. When there is a difference, patients and their healthcare providers need and deserve to know this. And right now, all too often that kind of information simply isn't available to clinicians and researchers.

That is why Senator MURKOWSKI and I are introducing the ``HEART for Women Act'' to help to turn this problem around. This legislation takes a 3-pronged approach to reducing the heart disease death rate for women.

First, the bill would authorize grants to educate doctors on how to prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease and strokes in women. Doctors and other healthcare providers first and foremost need to know that heart disease is a major problem in women, so that they treat it accordingly.

The bill would also require that health information that is already being reported to the federal government be gender-specific, and would require annual recommendations to Congress for improving the treatment of heart disease in women. Doctors need to know what medical treatments are safe and effective for their women patients.

Finally, the bill would also expand a current program run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC called WISEWOMAN, Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation.

The WISEWOMAN program provides free heart disease and stroke screening to low-income, uninsured women. While Michigan is fortunate to be one of the 14 States that has a WISEWOMAN program, every State should have this important program.

These are simple, cost-effective, but meaningful steps that Congress can take that will help get the death rate for women from heart disease and stroke going in the right direction--down.

Today is Valentine's Day, a day for showing our loved ones how much we love and appreciation them.

As women, we tend to be really great at taking care of everyone around us--our children, our husbands, our aging parents. Unfortunately, we're not nearly so good about taking care of ourselves.

So I hope that this Valentine's Day will also be a day to raise awareness about the risks of heart disease for women and to encourage our loved ones--our mothers, sisters, and friends--to take good care of themselves. I urge my colleagues to join me in passing this critical legislation.

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