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Getting the Message:  Heart Disease is the #1 Killer of Women

A 2006 survey from the American Heart Association shows that more women are getting the message that heart disease is the #1 killer of women.  Designed to track trends in awareness, knowledge, and perceptions related to heart disease and stroke among women the latest findings show that overall awareness of cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death has nearly doubled over the past decade.  The survey showed that 57 percent of American women know that heart disease is the leading killer of women, up from 34 percent in 2000 and 46 percent in 2003.  Although awarenss has increased among African American and Hispanic women, these groups—who are at higher risk of heart disease than white women—continue to have lower rates of awareness.

Findings from the survey also show that women's knowledge about their personal risk of heart has also increased.  In fact, 21 percent of women identified heart disease/heart attack as the greatest health problem they faced in 2006 as compared to 13 percent in 2003 and 8 percent in 2000.

Despite the increased knowledge and awareness about heart disease among women, there remains a need for them to talk with their health care provider about heart disease.  Less than half of the women who responded to this survey felt that they were well informed about heart disease.  While an overwhelming number of participants—95 percent—felt comfortable discussing prevention and treatment options affecting their personal health with their doctor, less than half—46 percent—actually discussed issues specifically related to heart disease with their health care provider.

"It is vitally important for women to talk to their doctors about personal risks for heart disease and to take the steps needed to lead a heart healthy life," says Elizabeth G. Nabel, MD, Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one of the National Institutes of Health.

The survey also emphasized several obstacles that continue to create confusion among women when dealing with strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease, including:  the best eating plan for heart health, how to control weight, how stress/depression affects the heart, the role of aspirin, and the role of hormones and supplements in prevention.


The Heart Truth is a campaign launched by NHLBI in September 2002 to increase women's awareness of heart disease.  The Heart Truth joins together leaders in women's health along with corporate and media partners to create a national movement aimed at delivering an urgent wakeup call to women about heart disease.  "The Heart Truth's education efforts, including the efforts of our many partners, are making a difference," says Nabel.