Time to Change the Conversation

16 02 2010

Each year, more women die of heart disease than any other condition. It is an equal opportunity killer so why do so many individuals think of it as only a “man’s disease?”

Today, 8 million women in the US are living with heart disease. It is estimated that 435,000 of those will experience a heart attack. In fact, 267,000 women die of heart attacks each year. That’s six times as many women who die of breast cancer.

To make matters worse:

  • Women often experience symptoms a month prior to a heart attack but ignore them.
  • Women don’t experience the same symptoms as men.
  • Women wait longer than men to go to an emergency room when having a heart attack.
  • After heart attack women are less likely to receive critical therapies known to improve survival.
  • Women are twice as likely as men to die within first few weeks following a heart attack.

And the differences in treatment and survival between men and women go on and on. But why?

The gender gap has to be closed. Women need to become aware of the symptoms of heart disease, able to recognize them and be encouraged to seek treatment faster. We want women to know dinner, the laundry, even a relaxing bath can wait — their health can’t. Women are less likely to experience gripping chest pain and often have symptoms far more subtle. According to the National Institute for Health, the most common symptoms reported by women was unexplained fatigue (71 percent), sleep disturbance (48 percent) and shortness of breath (41 percent).  In fact, fewer than 30 percent reported having chest pain or discomfort prior to their heart attacks — and 43 percent reported no chest pain at all during any stage of the attack.  Then why do most doctors still consider chest pain the most important heart attack symptom in both women and men?

Avera worked with bvk to create awareness of the threat heart disease poses to women. The system’s hospitals are partnering with local restaurants, grocery and appliance stores to make a difference. The resulting marketing tactics (print and environmental) are available for other providers to use as public service announcements for a nominal license fee.

If a washer and dryer in the midst of the grocery store doesn’t stop you, or a stove in the entry of a local restaurant, they hope their messages will. And as extra enticement to stop and pick up a fact sheet with the warning signs of heart attack, Avera has added an incentive — a chance to win a new high efficiency washer and dryer or gift certificates (the offers vary based on the campaign partners and all prizes were donated).

In addition, a free online heart health assessment is being promoted to help individuals determine their risk of heart disease and take proactive steps to prevent it. And because early detection saves lives, a specially priced heart screening package is also offered by Avera Heart Hospital to identify the presence of heart-related medical conditions and allow for immediate intervention if needed.

And because we still need to reach men too, a TV spot was produced to remind men that chest pain is a medical emergency and ignoring the warning signs of a heart attack is simply ridiculous.

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