Some people can be described as a heart attack waiting to happen, but Linda Fournier isnt one of them. The Hayden, Idaho, resident is physically fit, doesnt smoke, and eats a balanced diet.
Yet a year ago, Fournier, 58, truly was a heart attack waiting to happen, she says.
After complaining for some time of shortness of breath and fatigue, her doctor sent her for an angiogram, and I ended up having a 98 percent blocked right coronary artery, she says. After an operation to open the artery using a stent, she says shes good to go, as long as she continues her healthy lifestyle.
Before the frightening episode, Fournier says she wouldnt have believed she was at risk for heart disease.
Many women are like Fournierthey dont focus on heart disease as a potential health risk, even though heart disease kills more women than the next 16 causes of death combined.
Thats why two area hospitals earlier this year introduced programs designed specifically to inform women about cardiac health: Womens HeartAdvantage, at Kootenai Medical Center (KMC), and Heart to Heart, at Sacred Heart Medical Center.
The programs both eventually plan to provide cardiac-risk screenings and educational materials and forums focusing on women and heart disease.
KMCs program also makes available an exercise program, while Sacred Hearts extends its educational outreach to the medical community, the hospitals say.
Its not coincidence that the two hospitals introduced similar initiatives this year.
I think were seeing a huge change in the medical community in recognizing women and heart disease as a problem, says Joyce Kratz Klatt, an exercise physiologist at KMC who heads Womens HeartAdvantage.
Women have been and continue to be more concerned about cancer as a health riskespecially breast cancerthan they do about heart disease, according to a recent survey conducted here by Sacred Heart.
Whats more, only 35 percent of the women who responded to that survey said their doctor had discussed symptoms of heart disease with them.
There are a number of theories why heart disease doesnt have wider recognition as a womens health issue.
In the past, there was some gender bias in medical research into heart disease, with studies focusing on heart-disease symptoms and effects in men, says Sharon Fairchild, vice president at Providence Services Eastern Washington, Sacred Hearts parent organization.
In addition, heart disease in a woman may not take the same form as it does in a man, and therefore might be misdiagnosed or dismissed as indigestion or hormonal fluctuations, says Dr. Jacy Ryan, a cardiologist at Heart Clinics Northwest here who says shes a big supporter of education programs such as Heart to Heart.
Whatever the case, both Womens HeartAdvantage and Heart to Heart are aimed at informing women of their risk of heart diseaseespecially those who are young enough to make meaningful lifestyle changes to reduce their lifetime risk.
At KMC, that means combining the results of a full cholesterol test with a lifestyle questionnaire to come up with an individualized cardiovascular risk factor report, says Kratz Klatt.
The hospital offered that service free from the time it launched the program in February until May, and since then has charged $10 for it, she says. So far, KMC has screened 1,100 peoplenot all of them womenthrough the HeartAdvantage program, she says.
Although Fourniers heart disease wasnt diagnosed through HeartAdvantage, since it predated the launch of the program, she has become an informal ambassador for the program, Kratz Klatt says.
Sacred Heart launched its Heart to Heart program on Valentines Day this year with a free seminar on heart-disease risk, and has offered similar sessions since then. It plans to offer health screenings similar to those done at KMC, starting within the next several months.
The charge for those hasnt been determined yet, says Sacred Heart spokeswoman Maureen Goins.
Both hospitals say the main cost of providing the services is the staff time involved.
By informing more women about their heart-disease risk, the hospitals view their programs both as a community service and as an important component in their cardiac-care services, representatives say.
If you can know what your risk is for cardiovascular disease, I think thats an incentive for people to make lifestyle changes, says Kratz Klatt. The earlier you make lifestyle changes, the more positive the outcomes going to be.
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