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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.


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Pat Eagan: Scripps Mercy Hospital and Womens Heart Health

Posted By WomenHeart, Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Originally published in the Scripps Mercy Hospital  Newsletter, July 2018 No. 5

One of our own volunteers, Pat Egan a Woman Heart Champion, pictured below (second from the left),  participated in the Women’s Heart Health Event along with Dr. Poulina Uddin and Dr. Kiyon Chung. Additionally, two other Woman Heart Champions shared their story.

Pat shared her story about the heart attack she suffered on August 19, 2015. Pat’s right coronary artery was 100% blocked. Upon arriving at Mercy Hospital, Pat underwent a heart catheterization procedure. Her left anterior descending artery was also 70% blocked.

 In order to improve her outlook, Pat enrolled in the cardiac rehabilitation program at Mercy Hospital. The clinic is a medically supervised program designed to heal people after their specific heart event and is staffed by incredibly caring nurses who are well-versed in cardiac care. Pat explained that studies show that there are dramatic benefits to those who enroll and complete the cardiac rehab program. For example, program participants experience a better quality of life, improved strength and endurance and sense of well-being and, most importantly, learn skills to reduce the risk of a future heart event. Even today, Pat continues to exercise at the rehab clinic 5 days a week.

Pat explained to the audience that discussing risk factors should not cause people to be alarmed. Instead, people should be informed. A few risk factors cannot be changed such as age, gender and family medical history.

On the other hand, Pat explained that there are many risk factors that are manageable, including a person’s blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, waist circumference, blood sugar and most importantly smoking! Pat was a smoker up to the day she had her heart attack. She is now 34 months without a cigarette. Pat made numerous other lifestyle changes because “she is a survivor and knowing now matters.”

Pat recognized that some people don’t have the time or money for a fitness center. For those people, Pat suggested ideas on how to do physical activity without even thinking about it as exercise. For example, using the stairs versus the elevator whenever possible, using the office restrooms farthest away from your desk, park farther away from the entrances when you are running errands, walk up and down each grocery store aisle and look at the products you are no longer purchasing.

Along with the life style changes, Pat noted that it important for women to know heart attack symptoms. Pat explained that each person’s heart attack symptoms are different.  Many women exhibit the classic chest pain and discomfort with sharp burning pain. Others experience shortness of breath, weakness, unusual tiredness, anxiety, nausea, lightheadedness and dizziness just to name a few. However, other women exhibit no symptoms whatsoever!

In closing Pat reminded everyone in the audience that they must know the symptoms and their own personal risk factors. Most importantly, know when to call 911 because time is of the essence.

So again, don’t be alarmed, be informed and take action today going forward!

On behalf of the outreach team and the heart care line marketing team.   I wanted to express how grateful we are for the wonderful help of the Mercy Volunteers   "The Blue Crew" were of tremendous value.  We cannot express our appreciation for their support and dedication for this event. 

Volunteers included:  Lindsey Sindelir, Ashley Priest, Juliette Hvistendahl, Alina Falquier, Georgia Thompson, Margaret Driscoll, Kakaii Wango’Olo, Jessica Fletcher and Valerie Lee

Thank you all, George Hayes, Manager, Market Outreach, Marcomm Administration.    

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The Value of WomenHeart Champions

Posted By Evan McCabe, Chair, Board of Directors, WomenHeart Champion, Tuesday, July 10, 2018

I have a purpose to share my heart story and save lives.

I am a WomenHeart Champion, a heart disease survivor, cardiovascular research advocate for women and retired cardiovascular registered nurse. The WomenHeart Champions are the core of our organization. I want to share the WomenHeart Champion story. We are fighting for every heart as WomenHeart Champion in our community.

WomenHeart Champions are a sisterhood of women who have established an extraordinary bond with women all across the country with a common issue; heart disease. First we go to the Mayo Clinic to be trained to become WomenHeart Champions. And by the time we arrive back home, back into our communities, we've already adopted what I call the WomenHeart lifestyle.

The pinnacle of that lifestyle is that a champion will talk to anyone about heart disease, anywhere, anytime. We keep the issue of women and heart disease, in the forefront of every conversation. WomenHeart Champions feel empowered when they plant the seed about how our heart symptoms might be different than men's. We really hope we are saving women's lives by teaching them about the potential symptoms of heart disease.

We really can't believe so many women still don't know their risk of heart disease in this country. We teach women how to be proactive about their heart health. Sometimes women go even into the workplace to give presentations to businesses and organizations through our Women Heart at Work program. With this program we teach women during the lunch hour about heart disease and hope that by doing that we help women not dismiss their symptoms.

WomenHeart Champions have been invited to various media events too numerous to list. We've been to Capitol Hill to talk to our political leaders. We've been to talk to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner about more women being in clinical trials. We've been invited to the White House, sometimes multiple times. But believe it or not, although it's quite exciting to do all those things, those are not our most cherished experiences.

Our most memorable experiences are when we connect with another woman struggling with heart disease. Many of us have support networks that we meet with monthly. Or some of us may also visit patients in the hospital. Here's what a WomenHeart Champion said about her experience leading a support network group. "Seeing the relief of a woman's eyes, the tears that often come, and then that smile on a fearful face when I say, I've been in your shoes. I share your journey and today I am living well with heart disease. I felt so alone when I was diagnosed and I vowed to never let another woman feel that fear." And this WomenHeart Champion has been with WomenHeart for 15 years.

So one might ask, what keeps a Woman Heart champion energized to continue the important work that we do. One champion summed it up this way. She said, "I should have died that night that I had my heart attack, but I didn't. I stayed alive because I know I have a purpose to share my heart story and hopefully save lives of others."

If you are woman living with heart disease, consider sharing your story and helping other women by becoming a WomenHeart Champion. We are currently recruiting women for the 2018 WomenHeart Science & Leadership Symposium. It’s the nation’s only volunteer program that trains women with heart disease to be community educators and support network coordinators for women heart patients.

To learn more or to sign up, visit

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Hot Flash or Heart Attack? Melissa Botello's Survivor Story

Posted By WomenHeart, Thursday, July 5, 2018

Heart disease causes one out of every four deaths of women in the United States, yet most women don’t know the symptoms. WomenHeart Champion Melissa Botello had no idea she was having a heart attack - she thought she was having hot flashes.  You can listen to her share her story on this recent episode of the Keep It Juicy lifestyle podcast.   




About the podcast: A lifestyle podcast for over-50s who know how to squeeze every bit of juice out of life. Host Helen Mitternight hosts weekly interviews with experts on relationships, sex, health, finance and lifestyle and people who are doing it right -- "Juicys."

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Champion Spotlight: Yesenia Araujo, "New York Strong"

Posted By Molly Kruser, Communications Associate , Wednesday, June 27, 2018

“I had three heart attacks in one day,” Yesenia Araujo says. The first, she explains, happened at her home, where her boyfriend called an ambulance to rush her to the hospital because she was vomiting, fatigued and experiencing shortness of breath—though at the time they did not realize she was having a heart attack. Yesenia suffers from asthma and while she knew this shortness of breath didn’t feel like her usual asthma, her past history was on both her and her doctor’s mind, distracting from the real problem at hand.

When Yesenia arrived at the hospital via ambulance she says she experienced a second heart attack. From there she was rushed to another hospital, where the medical professionals finally realized Yesenia was having a heart attack. It was December 13, 2013. She was 43 years old.

“I was having a heart attack right in their faces while they were doing a sonogram,” Yesenia recalls. “That whole day I felt like no one really believed me. I didn’t know how to express myself. I kept telling them I couldn’t breathe. But the vomiting is what I remember the most.”

Yesenia, a New York native, the daughter of Dominican immigrants, grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and enjoyed running along the Hudson River. A self-described yogi and a lover of mud runs who used to work at a local gym, she explains that she never thought this would happen to her. Though, she adds, he father had died of heart disease years earlier. But, Yesenia, explains, she was a single mother at that time and taking care of her daughter was a bigger concern than worrying about what he father’s heart disease could mean for the future of her own health.

After her heart attacks Yesenia spent about a month in cardiac rehab. But even after finishing cardio rehab, she felt frustrated and depressed. “I was devastated and it was harder than I expected because this is an organ that I had no control over,” Yesenia explained. “I was deeply depressed and didn’t find help until my new cardiologist asked if I’d be interested in a support group for women like me, and I said yes.”

And that support group was WomenHeart’s peer-to-peer support network, SisterMatch, which connected her to other women with similar experiences, providing a sense of renewed strength, understanding and community. She went on to become a WomenHeart Champion, attending the Science & Leadership Symposium at the Mayo Clinic and working to further support and engage with other women living with heart disease. 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “a percentage of people with no history of depression become depressed after a heart attack or after developing heart failure. And people with depression but no previously detected heart disease, seem to develop heart disease at a higher rate than the general population.” Depression or anxiety may often follow a heart disease diagnosis along with feelings of shock, fear, and a sense of having lost control.

Now, over four years after her heart attack, Yesenia has come a long way from the depression she suffered in the aftermath of her heart attacks. ““I live in New York. Anything can happen at any moment. You can’t let yourself worry all the time,” Yesenia says with the resilience that New Yorkers are known for.

She still lives an active lifestyle, though she is more conscious of not pushing herself too hard. She works out six days a week and still enjoys running along the Hudson River from her new home in New York’s Hell's Kitchen—sometimes all the way down to the Freedom Tower, which is about 4 miles.

And, with that same plucky native New York resolve Yesenia adds that her best advice to other women would be to advocate for yourself in all aspects of life, especially when it comes to your health. You know your own body. “Advocate for yourself. Speak your mind.”

If you or a woman you know is suffering from feelings of depression after a heart attack or are just looking to find out more information, visit and check-out our SisterMatch program or HeartSisters Online to be connected to someone who’s been there and just gets it.

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Heart Disease and Depression Often Go Hand in Hand: WomenHeart Can Help

Posted By Calondra Tibbs, WomenHeart Chief Operating Officer, Thursday, June 14, 2018

Originally published on, Anxiety and Depression Association of America


Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, with 1 in 4 women dying each year. Yet 45 percent of women do not know that heart disease is their number- one killer, responsible for more deaths than all cancers combined.


Some research indicates that depression increases the likelihood of getting heart disease, and that many women with heart disease develop some degree of depression. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “a percentage of people with no history of depression become depressed after a heart attack or after developing heart failure. And people with depression but no previously detected heart disease, seem to develop heart disease at a higher rate than the general population.”


Depression or anxiety may often follow a heart disease diagnosis in addition to shock, fear, loss of control, and uncertainty about the future.


When New York City native and WomenHeart Champion Yesenia Araujo had a heart attack at age 43, she was dumbfounded. Doctors suggested a lifestyle change of eating right and exercising regularly would go a long way, but she was already eating right, doing yoga and mud runs on the weekend.


“I was devastated and it was harder than I expected because this is an organ that I had no control over,” Araujo said. “I was deeply depressed and didn’t find help until my new cardiologist asked if I’d be interested in a support group for women like me, and I said yes.”


Like Araujo, many WomenHeart Champions underscore the critical importance of support during their time of need. That’s why we have two programs to help: HeartSisters Online, which offers virtual support groups for women nationwide and SisterMatch, our unique program that pairs newly diagnosed women with heart disease to those who are thriving with heart disease.


“Being in a community with my heart sisters is the best part of having a heart attack,” Araujo said. “I know now that I am not alone.”


For WomenHeart Champion Marcia Kritzler-Egeland seeking a therapist helped her regain her sense of self.


The first she learned of her own heart disease came at age 65 when she experienced her first heart attack. Her second heart attack came while she was undergoing a catheterization for the first.


Though she’d visited a cardiologist in her 40s because of family history, she was told that because she was a woman, she was “protected from heart disease.” Though she was living with type 2 diabetes and was slightly overweight, she never considered herself a candidate for heart disease.


“I was scared, no longer in denial, and on an emotional rollercoaster,” said Kritzler-Egeland. “I was weaker than I had ever been and that weakness along with my emotional state made me feel like a train wreck.”


A self-described optimist, Kritzler-Egeland said she remembers waking up in the hospital looking out the window feeling grateful and thankful for her life. She knew she had to do whatever was necessary to regain her health.


“If I had known about WomenHeart, I would have asked for a SisterMatch, but I didn’t know. So I called a local therapist and started seeing her twice a week,” Kritzler-Egeland said. ”She helped me understand that it was ok to be a survivor. [She] helped me immensely, but I think that if I had spoken with women who had similar experiences to mine, my progress would have been faster and greater.”


Never underestimate the power of support, resources, and the open arms and ears of someone who has been in your shoes. For more information and to learn how WomenHeart can offer support, please visit


Calondra Tibbs is the Chief Operating Officer of WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, the only organization dedicated solely to advancing women’s heart health, providing resources and support for the 48 million women living with or at risk of heart disease.

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Champion Spotlight: Meet Mary Anne Norling

Posted By Talia Schmidt, Communications & Marketing Manager, WomenHeart, Friday, June 1, 2018

Pregnant with her first baby at 23 years old, Mary Anne Norling was excited and nervous, bracing herself for the Washington, D.C. summer heat when she found out she had pre-eclampsia. The first health scare of many she would endure and survive Norling didn’t know that much about the disease. Ultimately, it led to an emergency cesarean section and even post-eclampsia.

It was only two and a half years later that she had a severe stroke due to a congenital arteriovenous malformation which may have been weakened by the pre-eclampsia. When malformation burst in her left brain, Norling lost all mobility on her right side, including her speech. Though she re-learned to walk fairly quickly, it took two to three years working closely with a speech therapist to regain her ability to speak. Now, she knows that research is beginning to link pre-eclampsia to an increased risk of developing heart disease. And that advocating for women’s health is something within her power.

An active WomenHeart Champion, Norling came to Washington, D.C. earlier this month for the Spring Leadership Weekend. Along with her cosupport network leader, Kristina Reu and Karen Roman RN of the Cardiac and Pulmonary Wellness Center (El Camino Hospital), Norling visited her congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) to share some of WomenHeart’s legislative priorities, including improving access to health care for women.

“We were expecting 15-20 minutes of her time, but she had Kristina, Karen, and me there for almost an hour, asking us questions,” Norling recalls.

As an advocate for women’s heart disease, Norling knows firsthand the importance of persevering.

Though she had developed pre-eclampsia during her first pregnancy earlier in life and a subsequent stroke, it wasn’t until her 50s when Norling was living an active, healthy lifestyle on the go that her health suffered drastically. She had been on cholesterolreducing drugs or statins since her early 30s because of challenges with her cholesterol. Then one year, it bounced up to around 300 while on the statin and she started having arm pain upon exertion, so her internist suggested she get a full cardiology work-up.

“Even with all my background of high cholesterol, pre-eclampsia, history of a stroke,— and after the stress echo workup, I was told there was nothing wrong with me,” Norling says. “The doctor did say to me, ‘If you really want, you can come back and have dye put in, but he didn’t recommend it.”

So, she didn’t. The last thing he said to her was, “What are you doing here? You’re just fine.”

Only four months later, while vacationing in Tahoe with her family, Norling suffered a heart attack at age 57.

“I was just grateful, I mean, thank heavens—because we do a lot of boating—we were not out in the middle of the lake that day,” Norling says. She was rushed to the closest hospital equipped with a catheterization laboratory, in Reno, about an hour away.

Luckily, Norling received the care she needed, though she still has two other partial blockages today. Following her heart event, Norling said she had to overcome a feeling that the medical system had let her down. “I was a mess,” Norling recalls. “I couldn’t believe this happened to me. I was angry, sad, and it was a real loss for me.”

But slowly, over time, she found the support of her local hospital, El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Ca., where she lives. “There are a lot of wonderful cardiologists in our area, and I had to learn to find the one that would listen to me,” Norling says.

“You hear all the time with women’s heart stories that it is not uncommon that they had to see two to three cardiologists until they found somebody who would listen to them,” Norling says. “Well, I’m on my third cardiologist, and he’s wonderful.”

When one of the nurses at her hospital asked if she was interested in training with WomenHeart, Norling seized the opportunity.

“My recovery from my heart attack and facing living with heart disease were due to the nurses who helped me navigate my way back,” says Norling. “I was a basket case. I wanted to pay it forward to other women.”

Today, Norling, a 2015 WomenHeart Champion, tries to eat healthy and work out five days a week so she will be around for her supportive husband, three married children and “one perfect granddaughter.” She co-leads the support group at El Camino Hospital with fellow WomenHeart Champion Kristina Reu.

With Reu and Roman, Norling feels proud to have informed the Rep. Eshoo (D-CA) about the WomenHeart organization, women’s heart health issues, non-medical switching, and the importance of support groups. Norling continues to serve as an active member of her community, working to give back as much as she receives.

“I want to be around,” Norling says. “I am blessed.” 

Subscribe for more great features with our monthly newsletter, Heart to Heart.

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Finding Better Health Through Hope: A North Star Matters

Posted By Gayathri Badrinath, Board Member, WomenHeart, Tuesday, May 29, 2018
I grew up in the United States, a child to first-generation immigrants from India. My parents worked very hard; my dad was a professor, and my mom stayed at home raising three energetic children. Our diet oscillated a great deal, from authentic South Indian food such as dosa and idli (my favorites) to classic American food. In my early teen years, I declared my love for Doritos and sour cream. Luckily, I never got on the soda bandwagon. My parents provided well for us and rarely held back on our requests for different foods.
When I hit 10th grade, I had an epiphany around my weight and realized that my diet and lack of exercise was problematic. For years, my family affectionately called me "pudgy one" in our local Indian dialect, which never concerned me until I got older. One of my volleyball coaches helped me understand the trajectory that I was on and what I'd need to do if I wanted to play college ball. For me, this also meant building my profile for admission to a top-tier university, crucial to my personal goals at the time.
My coach educated me about nutrition labels, fat content and the importance of daily exercise. A bit to my parent's dismay at the time, I architected entirely my own diet, holding my fat intake to less than 30 grams per day, and woke up at 4:30 every morning to exercise at the gym before school. Over the course of several months, I dropped more than 20 pounds and transformed myself into a strong athlete.
I wasn't the type of kid to keep my opinions to myself. As my knowledge about diet and exercise grew, I'm certain I drove my parents crazy, lecturing them about changes they needed to make in their life. My mom developed an arsenal of accommodations to Indian staples. She pioneered a 50-50 split of white rice and quinoa and got other family members to agree to it – no small feat when feeding a family of five. She reduced ghee and salt usage when cooking and focused on using seasonings to drive flavor. To my mom's credit, she's a pretty amazing and creative cook.

During my senior year of high school, several colleges recruited me, and I decided to attend Johns Hopkins University, where I had a strong, four-year athletic career while receiving a world-class scientific education. This experience reinforced my ability to overcome many odds and achieve something I deeply desired. Furthermore, I transformed my health trajectory, an important consideration given my Indian heritage. Studies show that people like me have more than double the risk of heart disease than others – a very scary statistic. However, researchers have found that 80 percent of deaths from heart disease could be prevented by controlling factors such as what we eat and how much we exercise.

Take the time to identify what drives you toward better health. For me, I come back to my North Star, my intrinsic motivation to be a difference maker, changing the world around me for all women who aspire to do more. Good health is essential to achieving my personal goals. In a world where bias and inequity are real challenges for women, a North Star can be the conduit to fight our internal fears and advance in a way that uncovers new roads and paths less traveled. I jump on the treadmill, put on my music and my imagination runs to the endless possibilities. While I foster my physical health, my mental health advances as well, with a healthy rush of running-induced dopamine. My morning exercise habit has persisted more than 25 years and become an integral part of not only who I am but also who I aspire to be. 


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Women’s Health Empowerment Summit brings together women in an effort to get real about mental health, caregiving, and self-advocacy

Posted By Talia Schmidt, Communications & Marketing Manager, WomenHeart, Wednesday, May 23, 2018

At the Coalition for Women’s Health Equity’s recent Women’s Health Empowerment Summit in Washington, D.C., women from all standings, backgrounds, and disciplines united for a day of learning, sharing, and inspiration. This year’s theme, “Breaking Barriers, Changing Futures,” brought together experts, advocates, doctors, and authors to tackle some of the most timely, important issues facing women in this day and age.  


“Women are refusing to stay silent on misdiagnoses,” said Ellen Hershkin, National President, Hadassah. “Women’s health does not advance itself; we have to fight for it.”


Summit participants learned about efforts to eradicate disparities and discrimination in women's health around prevention, research, access, and treatment. Some of the key takeaways included:

  • The health disparities that exist in our health system negatively impact women.
  • One of the most effective strategies we can do is build relationships with other women’s health coalitions, policymakers, and influencers.
  • Fatalities result from lack of including women in clinical trials. 

In a special panel on the impact of caregiving on women, panelists spoke about the need to offer caregivers more information about supporting stroke victims. One of the hardest parts of caregiving can be managing stroke survivors’ emotions and behaviors. Families need strategies and tips for managing their own care, as caregivers are notorious for neglecting their own care. In fact, caregivers often forego their own medical needs, including mammograms, colonoscopies, etc. Caregivers are even twice as likely to develop heart disease in their lifetimes.


And in a moving personal speech, WomenHeart Champion Starr Mirza shared her story about struggling with misdiagnoses for much of her adolescence. Despite showing physical symptoms she couldn’t quite figure out, such as fainting and feeling a reoccurring “ticking” in her chest, doctors assured Mirza’s parents that she was fine. Until one day, newly married at 23 living in Florida, she collapsed from cardiac arrest. When she awoke, she learned she has Long QT syndrome, a condition that causes fast, chaotic heartbeats and whose symptoms include fainting and seizures. Mirza shared her wish for all women: to listen to your body and to be relentless when it comes to advocating for your own health care.  

WomenHeart Champion Starr Mirza shares her heart story at the

Women’s Health Empowerment Summit in Washington, D.C. last Wednesday.  


WomenHeart Champions Gwen Mayes and Starr Mirza, who spoke at the

Women’s Health Empowerment Summit, visit before the conference begins.


The summit also addressed mental health issues in women. In a fireside chat on how gender bias affects women’s mental health and treatment, panelists delved into how women are more likely to suffer from depression, mental health issues, and workplace discrimination. One in seven women suffer from postpartum depression; one in two women of color suffer from postpartum depression.

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Changing Misconceptions about Heart Health in Asian Indians

Posted By Ella Schneiberg, Friday, April 27, 2018

Written by WomenHeart Board Member Gayathri Badrinath 

Originally published in hi INDiA


It’s inspiring to see the ascension of Indians into the top ranks of some of the world’s most iconic institutions. When I say “Indians,” I’m referring to people who hail from the Indian subcontinent in Asia, including American-born Indians like myself. I’ve spent my career working in the healthcare industry commercializing first-of-their-kind innovations targeted at improving the life of people suffering from heart disease. In this capacity, I’ve learned how difficult it can be to change existing behaviors and how valuable a shared vision of the opportunity can be in realizing success. Recently, I accepted a seat on the board of WomenHeart, an organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of heart disease for women. 

In honor of Minority Health Month, I’d like to take the opportunity to drive a call to action to influential Indian leaders, who are at the helm of companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Novartis. The exploding public health challenge of heart disease in Indians should be a visible corporate and social priority. We need Indian leaders at the helm of organizations and their workforces full of brilliant scientific and technology talent of Indian heritage to be operating at the top of their health. Our economic growth and global future depends on it.   

Indians are the second-fastest growing minority in the United States and represent one-fifth of the world’s population. Although more studies are needed to understand the unique facets of heart disease in Indians, the data we have signals trouble. Studies show that Indians have a three to four times higher risk of heart disease and are more likely to die from a heart attack before the age of 50 than other populations. Furthermore, as we navigate the complex issues surrounding gender disparity, we need to examine critically our approach to women’s heart health. One study showed that Indian women in California were dying at a 44 percent higher rate of heart attacks than our white counterparts. 

Solving this problem includes driving initiatives towards not only things that we can change such as diet and lifestyle choices but also to increasing our understanding of genetic causes and translating this knowledge into therapeutic targets for drug and device development.  We must also take care to understand the evolving landscape of social norms and trends associated with urbanization in India and immigration into the United States. These trends have been associated with a troubling increase in obesity and diabetes. That being said, no intervention will be successful without deep understanding of the culture. 

A common misconception among Indians is that all vegetarian diets are low-fat and nutritionally rich. This myth must be busted and much more education needs to happen on how to optimize the Indian diet, vegetarian or not. The addition of certain oils during preparation, salt and sugar can dramatically reduce the nutritional content. Published data from a study involving more than 8,000 South Indians showed excessive dietary sodium intake was an independent predictor of high blood pressure. The jury is still out on the benefits and drawbacks of ghee, a form of clarified butter common in the Indian diet. While some see ghee as a key factor in driving heart disease risk, others claim ghee intake could be therapeutic. Shifting from a diet heavy in simple carbohydrates such as white rice to more complex and nutritionally rich grains is a reasonable starting point.  

Strategies such as eliminating white rice, a staple in the Indian diet are likely to fail. I recall my parents telling me when doctors had counseled them to take such actions. Although perhaps a scientifically-valid recommendation, this type of feedback lacks appreciation of cultural and social norms.  Culturally-sensitive intervention is critical.  One study showed significant improvements in knowledge and perceptions about heart disease prevention in South Asians exposed to culture-specific multimedia education. In my community, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, El Camino Hospital (a member of the WomenHeart National Hospital Alliance) has a South Asian Heart Center, where doctors, staff and volunteers are doing an important job driving initiatives tailored to our South Asian community.  Silicon Valley is home to more than 115,000 Indians. More federal and local funding should flow to such programs; they play a vital role in driving community health.

Many opportunities exist to drive meaningful change and improve the heart health of Indians.  We must develop a joint vision of our tremendous potential with better health and take an integrative approach to meeting this North Star. Healthcare is not solely the responsibility of doctors or hospitals, it’s all of our responsibility, employers, insurers, caregivers, friends and family.  When health is at stake, we all suffer.  I hope that Indian leaders will take to heart the challenge ahead of us and assign the priority and resources to tackle this complex challenge. 

To learn more about women and heart disease and to take charge of your heart health, visit

Gayathri Badrinath is a global commercial leader who serves on the Board of Directors at WomenHeart.  




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A Note from Mary - April 2018

Posted By WomenHeart, Wednesday, April 25, 2018

MaryIt’s less than two weeks until our annual Wenger Awards—a memorable night meant to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of those working to improve our world for women with heart disease. The event brings together some of the best and the brightest in the field.
This year marks the 18th annual gala and my eighth time leading this important event at WomenHeart. Sometimes, I can’t even believe it myself—that an integral part of my job involves honoring exceptional leaders contributing to advancing women’s heart health, whether through scientific discovery, new groundbreaking research, persistent political advocacy, or raising awareness by portraying important and real stories on television.
This year’s honorees are remarkable, and I’m excited to spend the evening showing the rest of the world just how much you can make a difference at the individual level. 

As the #1 killer of women, heart disease can often feel like a daunting diagnosis and societal problem too big for any of us to make a real difference in overcoming. But there are small ways that every person can do their part to fight for every heart, our theme for this year’s Wenger Awards:

  1. Educate yourself and other women: The more that women know about heart disease, the easier it will be to know when to seek help, advocate for yourself, and understand that every minute matters when it comes to the physical makeup of your heart. We have to encourage more women to take time for themselves and put their health first—for the good of those they love.
  2. Talk about it: Have a conversation with an important woman in your life. Only 55 percent of women know that heart disease is their leading cause of death, and because of this, many women may not know how their symptoms are often different from men’s.
  3. Focus on prevention: There’s a lot we can’t control and there are some risk factors for heart disease we can control. Eighty percent of heart disease is preventable. This includes diet, exercising, and knowing your cholesterol and blood pressure numbers. Ask your doctor to get screened and have the conversation about your #1 health risk. At WomenHeart, we mostly interact with women in need of support and resources, and we are happy to help through all of our wonderful programs. We’d also like make sure that women don’t only find out about WomenHeart after they’ve had a heart attack or lived with a heart defect for all their lives.
This year, I invite you to attend our Wenger Awards with a woman you love. Named for Dr. Nanette Wenger, a visionary and a leader in women’s cardiovascular health, the awards ceremony honors those fighting to advance women’s heart health. A true trailblazer who paved the way for others, Dr. Wenger spent her career conducting groundbreaking research that ultimately led to what we know today—heart disease in women can look very different. She focuses on the intricacies and nuances of women’s heart disease and highlights the benefits and need for more women to participate in clinical trials. Today at 87, she’s still practicing medicine as what some would call, “a rock star physician.”
May her remarkable leadership inspire us to continue to advance the science, question the status quo, and stay inspired to raise our voices in the fight for every heart.

Mary McGowan, CEO

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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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WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a founding partner of The Heart Truth Red Dress campaign. The Heart Truth and Red Dress are trademarks of HHS.