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The WomenHeart Blog presents heart health information and news about the work of WomenHeart, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of women living with heart disease in the U.S. Want to write for us? Reach out to us at communications@womenheart.org.

 

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Champion Spotlight: Empowering Women

Posted By Anthony Vieira, Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2019

While the heart disease facts and statistics are essential to Heart Month, there is, perhaps, nothing more powerful than the personal stories of women who have lived with—and conquered—heart disease, and the roles these women play in spreading heart health awareness.

Illinois native Marie Warshauer knows the role she plays is significant. Back in 2002, as a member of the inaugural class of WomenHeart Champions, she made it her mission to help other women know the signs and symptoms of heart disease. “It’s important to know your family history—both my father and grandfather had heart disease,” says Marie. “Women have to listen to themselves, take care of themselves.” That’s something Marie has learned to do after being diagnosed with coronary artery disease in 2002.

“I began experiencing the symptoms in 2001, but didn’t know it. My energy was low and I started having radiating numbness in my arms.” A visit to the hospital proved to be the right choice for Marie. Though an initial stress test showed no symptoms, a second test revealed a 99 percent blockage of her left anterior descending artery (LAD).

After coming to terms with her diagnosis and seeking medical treatment, Marie was surprised to learn from her cardiologist and WomenHeart Scientific Advisory Council member Norine Walsh, M.D., about a support system she could find help. “Dr. Walsh introduced to me WomenHeart,” Marie says. “This organization helps so many women and encourages them to think [about their health] and to listen to themselves.”

Marie’s involvement with WomenHeart would turn out to be a major milestone in her life. After becoming of one of the first WomenHeart Champions, she would go on to lead support networks in Illinois and Indiana, using her story to educate women about heart disease and teaching them to advocate for themselves and others. An unwavering commitment to spreading the word about heart disease afforded her the opportunity to serve as a District Leader, National Director of Support Networks, and eventual WomenHeart Board member.

Today, Marie feels wonderful and continues to be passionate about raising heart health awareness. She’s so grateful to WomenHeart that she actually intends to list the organization in her will. “WomenHeart helped me find courage and make life-long friends. It has truly changed my life.”  

 

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Barbara's Letter

Posted By WomenHeart, Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Dear WomenHeart Community,

I’m delighted to be writing to you as the newly elected Board Chair of WomenHeart and share that Jerri Anne Johnson has been elected as Chair-Elect, and Gayathri Badrinath as Vice Chair.  Jerri Anne and I both had long careers in the health industry, and believe we provide a diverse set of skills which makes us a strong team. Gayathri’s background is complimentary as it encompasses both healthcare and technology.

Even prior to engaging with WomenHeart in 2004, I dedicated my career to elevating the patient voice.  Jerri Anne, while more clinically focused, concentrated her efforts on issues related to risk factors associated with pregnancy.     

As we enter 2019, WomenHeart approaches its 20th anniversary, grateful and humbled by what we have accomplished.  In 2018 our WomenHeart Champions hosted more than 400 community education events, provided nearly 5,500 hours of support network services, and made more than 1,300 visits to women in hospitals and cardiac rehabilitation programs.  Through our community events, WomenHeart@Work presentations, Support Networks, etc., we touched over 100,000 women and men interested in women and heart disease.    

Our efforts continue in 2019 beginning with Heart Month. Be sure to read the newsletter for a look at all of our upcoming activities.  Feb. 4, we are launching our new website, with an exciting new look, refreshed brand and easier navigation. 2019 will bring a renewed focus on risk factors related to pregnancy, heart failure and peripheral artery disease (PAD).  We are looking to grow our Sister to Sister Match program, enabling us to engage with heart patients in less populated areas or are unable to participate in local support groups.     

In 2019 we are critically evaluating our work, focusing on how to strategically leverage our resources, while deepening the impact and expanding our reach.  We continue to create new ways to digitally communicate and share our educational messages.  I look forward to an exciting year for WomenHeart and to continuing this journey together.   

 

Best regards,

Barbara Tombros 

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Worse Patient Outcomes for Women - We Fight On

Posted By Ella Schneiberg, WomenHeart Communications Associate, Wednesday, January 2, 2019

WomenHeart has been working against gender discrimination in heart health care for twenty years now. A new report by the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that despite the great strides we’ve made, women still have so much to fight for when it comes to healthcare. The research found that women with heart disease report a worse quality of care when compared to men. This is a renewed call to action– we need to work together to ensure all women receive the care and treatment they deserve.

The data also underscores the need for further investigation, as Cardiosmart explains:

“Unfortunately, findings suggest that women with heart disease experience poorer quality of care than men, which can result in poorer patient satisfaction and outcomes. As a result, authors encourage future studies to help explore these gender differences. Authors also highlight the need for efforts to help ensure that women and men receive the same quality of care, regardless of their gender.”

Of course, this report does not come as a surprise to us. For years, our WomenHeart Champions have told their own heart stories of misdiagnoses and mistreatment. We will continue to support, advocate, and educate on behalf of the millions of women living with and at risk of heart disease.

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Keeping Exercise Heart-Healthy in the New Year

Posted By WomenHeart, Friday, December 28, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Take Charge of Your Heart Health with Exercise

The most significant barrier to exercise is not what to do, but finding the motivation to do it. Experts recommend setting short- and long-term goals, or having a very specific plan in place. What else can you do to keep up your routine?
 
Focus on perceived exertion.  Perceived exertion relates to a scale that is used to measure the intensity of your exercise. Heart rate can be a fairly inaccurate measure of how hard you’re working, particularly if you’re on medication for your heart. "We recommend the walk-and-talk test to tell if you’re working hard enough,” says Dalene Bott-Kitslaar, RN, MSN, F-CNP, of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Basically, you should be working hard enough (whether walking or another activity) that you can’t easily carry on a conversation – you have to stop and catch your breath while talking.
 
Don’t sell walking short.  Walking can improve the state of cardiac risk factors like cholesterol, blood pressure, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress.  Measure your daily steps by wearing a pedometer all day, and try to get your step count up to 10,000 per day. Keep bumping the number up by 1,500 steps a day until you reach the goal. Walking this amount each day can make a real difference – and you only need comfortable clothes and a good pair of shoes.
 
Individualize your routine.  Above all, your exercise should be enjoyable for you! "What works well for one doesn’t work for others,” says Bott-Kitslaar. "Pick something you enjoy. Tap dance – or ballroom dance. As long as you’re moving, your heart is benefiting.” Some women enjoy variety, picking different activities throughout the week to work different muscle groups.
 
Find a "personal trainer” to stay motivated.  Sometimes this can be a personal trainer at your health club, but use what you have available – Bott-Kitslaar’s "personal trainers” are her dogs, who don’t let her sit down after work without their daily walk. "Find someone or something in your life – your dog, your child, your husband or mother – to motivate you to take care of yourself,” she says. With smartphones at our disposal, there are also a number of online personal training apps, or personalized fitness videos that offer guides from the pros. 

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What's Cooking? - December

Posted By WomenHeart, Friday, December 21, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Brewing with Apple
 

Looking for a sip of something hot over the holidays? A cup of apple cider vinegar tea may be just what the doctor ordered. This tea, originally posted in Alternative Daily, contains a delicious blend of cinnamon, lemon, and honey paired with apple cider vinegar—a healthy ingredient known to help lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels. It’s a soothing drink that will surely add to your holiday cheer.

Why it's heart healthy: 

Not only does kicking back with a relaxing tea help to lower stress levels, lemon in teas helps to lower inflammation in the body - boosting digestion and aiding bodily functions. Cinnamon is also a powerful and healthy spice, which can help to lower blood sugar levels and help to reduce heart risks. But be careful not to overdo it, as some experts say high cinnamon may increase the heart rate. 

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The Power of Giving

Posted By Kristina Brooks, Senior Associate, Digital Communications, Thursday, December 20, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The numbers are terrifying. There are 48 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease. As the first and only patient-centered organization for women, our mission is to bring about change and provide education about the leading cause of death in women.

Image result for gayathri badrinathFor 20 years, supporters have made a positive impact in our efforts to achieve these goals – an integral key to our success, and we wouldn’t be celebrating 20 years without them.

WomenHeart board member Gayathri Badrinath and WomenHeart Champion Robin Olson recently created their own online fundraisers to support WomenHeart during #GivingTuesday. For Gayathri, her passion for bringing a mission such as ours to life was most important when deciding to get involved.

Fundraising is a critical element to help organizations such as WomenHeart translate passion into action and live out our mission each day.  With every dollar donated to WomenHeart, we have the opportunity to touch the lives of women whose needs are often underrepresented and under-appreciated.”  

As a board member, Gayathri not only serves the community of women living with heart disease, but also understands what it takes to run a nonprofit. She believes donations are “the backbone helping us to reach our goals.” She used a Facebook fundraiser and the power of her social network to help women who “would otherwise not get the support they need following a heart attack or other significant event.”

One of those women is Robin Olson, a WomenHeart Champion who, by not knowing the signs of a heart attack, almost waited too long to seek emergency care.

“I set up my fundraiser on Facebook because I believe in WomenHeart’s mission. I think people should support WomenHeart because we are helping to educate and give peer support to women with heart disease.”

Friends and family have been a pillar of support for Robin throughout her recovery, and her experience has empowered Robin to pay it forward ever since. So Robin did not hesitate to not only set up her fundraiser, but also volunteer to be one of the faces of WomenHeart’s #GivingTuesday campaign – helping to empower other women and prevent her experience from happening to them. 

By donating today, you can help up us train more WomenHeart Champions to educate women about heart disease, as well as provide in-person and virtual support to thousands of women living with heart disease.

“Our Champions work tirelessly to bring women who need support together, educate them about their heart, and lend a listening ear at a time when it’s most needed,”  says Gayathri. She adds that studies show more work needs to be done to increase women’s awareness of the risks involved in developing and managing heart disease.

Your donation helps to build that community of empowered women, who wake up each day prepared to stand in courage and fight.

Give today.

 
 


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A Note from Mary - December 2018

Posted By Mary Logan, Interim CEO, WomenHeart, Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Updated: Thursday, December 13, 2018

As we close out 2018 and turn our attention to welcoming in the New Year, it’s a natural time to reflect on our experiences throughout the year. It’s also fun to make predictions about the coming year – which, for WomenHeart, will be its 20th year, a major milestone. 

Last year at this time, I never would have predicted that I would be taking a detour to come out of retirement for a few months, helping WomenHeart through its CEO transition.  This detour has turned out to be the most enriching and rewarding experience of 2018 for me. WomenHeart, quite simply, is a gem of a community dedicated to saving the lives of women living with or at risk of heart disease.

This year has been a turning point in the organization, with many changes made or in the works: preparing for a new CEO; planning for the 20th anniversary year; developing and implementing new strategies to diversify the organization’s funding; and more. It’s a lot of change to absorb in a single year for all of you and for your incredible staff team, and all of you have been dedicated, loyal, and supportive during this transition. Thank you!

As I say farewell to all of you who are the essence of WomenHeart, I make my own new year’s prediction that next December, you will be looking back on 2019 with the smile of success. I also predict that you will be looking ahead at 2020 with excitement about the next 20 years, a renewed sense of engagement, and a unified vision about WomenHeart’s future, cheering on a dynamic new CEO with whom the entire community will work to implement big, audacious goals! 

Best wishes to you for a holiday season and a 2019 that fills you with many moments of joy, comfort, laughter, and gratitude. I’m grateful for this experience with you.

 

Kindest Regards,

Mary Logan

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December 2018 - Sharing the Voices of Native American Communities

Posted By Amy Friedrich-Karnik, Director, Public Policy, Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Updated: Thursday, December 13, 2018

Amy's Advocacy Corner

Heart disease is the number one killer of Native American women. As an organization dedicated to serving diverse communities of women living with and at risk of heart disease, WomenHeart has been engaged with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in thinking about ways to impact that rate and to support Native American women living with heart disease.

On Dec. 5, WomenHeart and NHLBI cohosted a day-long Convening on Native American Women’s Heart Health in Washington, DC. The meeting included over 40 experts in Native American health and research, women’s cardiovascular health, and public health programs for diverse Native American populations. A number of community leaders, federal officials and policymakers, and Native American women living with heart disease also attended the event.

The group met at the National Museum of the American Indian to explore best practices and culturally competent ways of engaging and supporting Native American women in preventing and living with heart disease.


There were dynamic panels that presented lessons learned from existing public health programs and allotted time for small groups to generate recommendations for moving the work forward. Two Native women shared their stories and experiences of living with heart disease, including WomenHeart Champion Brandie Taylor, a legislator for the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel in California. Also among the distinguished attendees were Debra Gee, J.D., WomenHeart board member and citizen of the Navajo Nation, who welcomed guests on behalf of WomenHeart.

Participants heard presentations that featured findings from the Strong Heart Study, the largest epidemiological study of cardiovascular disease in American Indians, and panel discussions that centered on some common themes. In particular, speakers echoed the cultural importance of including and listening to elders.

Other topics included keeping stories at the center of work done to raise awareness or to educate about health risks. When designing health interventions that are holistic, leaders were urged to understand and factor in the diversity of experiences and context in which Native American women live, and deputize power to women in Native American communities.

The night before the meeting, WomenHeart and NHLBI co-hosted a reception in the Rayburn House Office Building in cooperation with the Congressional Caucus on Native Americans. Meeting participants mingled with Congress staff members to talk about their work and what brought them to this event.

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Getting Heart Smart with Dr. Jennifer Mieres

Posted By WomenHeart, Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Dr. Jennifer H. MieresThe statistics are sobering. African-American women are more likely to die of heart disease than Caucasian women, while Hispanic women face heart disease nearly 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.

Obesity, high cholesterol, poverty, language barriers, physical inactivity, and lack of information all contribute to increased risk factors for women of color. Studies have found that minority patients may have poorer health because of disparities in health care, or from distrust of their health care provider. These are factors that make it difficult for women to gain control over their heart disease risk.

Dr. Jennifer H. Mieres is co-author of the book Heart Smart for Women along with Dr. Stacey Rosen, and serves on WomenHeart’s Scientific Advisory Council. She says that patients need to develop a partnership with their doctors and effective communication is the key. Health care professionals need to relate to their patients in a way they can understand so they can be active participants in their care. 

Above all, minority women need to be made more aware of their risk for heart disease. Statistics show that less than half of African-American women and even fewer Hispanic women know that heart disease is the leading killer of women, compared to more than half of Caucasian women.

Dr. Mieres also says that genetic predisposition may play a role in the greater incidence of high blood pressure and diabetes in women and men from certain cultures. African-Americans coming to the U.S. from African nations may have a difficult time metabolizing salt after adjusting to a Western diet and lifestyle vastly different from where they once lived.

Cultural norms also present a challenge when it comes to improving one's heart health. Traditional diets high in cholesterol, including fried foods may be tough to give up.  But they contribute to obesity and high cholesterol, two leading risks for heart disease.

Dr. Mieres advises minority women to begin thinking about their family risk factors for heart disease, including their genetic predisposition, in their 20s. And if there is a strong family history of high cholesterol, blood pressure or diabetes in the family, Dr. Mieres suggests making heart health a family affair by seeing a pediatrician to assess the family history and risk for heart disease. The doctor may recommend doing a baseline blood pressure and cholesterol screening on the younger members of the family.

Aside from family history, which we may not be able to control, Dr. Mieres says we all can work toward making heart-smart changes that can dramatically lower a woman's risk for heart disease:

• Do not skip meals; Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

• Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day

• Broil and bake foods; don't fry

• Eat 2 servings of fish per week

• Be active every day: walk, jog, or dance at least 10 minutes daily

• Find heart healthy substitutions for your traditional favorites

• Remove the salt shaker; use spices and herbs for traditional flavors

Dr. Mieres urges women to make their own health a priority. "If you are not healthy, you will not be able to take care of your family and they need you!"

You can purchase a copy of Heart Smart for Women through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. For more information on the book, visit https://www.heartsmartmovement.com/

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The Best Heart Apps for 2019

Posted By WomenHeart, Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Healthline

Now that the end of the year is fast approaching, many will begin to plan out their top goals and resolutions for the new year. One of the most common resolutions is engaging in better health and fitness habits. Our friends at the Alliance for Aging Research and Healthline have recently shared the best heart disease apps of 2018 to get your new year started on the right track. 

The list features a number of free and paid apps for Apple OS and Android devices, and includes monitors for your heart rate, blood pressure, and trackers that can identify different types of fitness activity. Browse the list, originally posted on Healthline, and find the right fit for your new year health goals. 

READ NOW: The Best Heart Disease Apps of 2018

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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, health care providers, advocates and consumers committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. WomenHeart supports, educates and advocates on behalf of the nearly 48 million American women living with or at risk of heart disease. Our programs are made possible by donations, grants and corporate partnerships.

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