Every fall the nation goes pink in honor of breast cancer awareness. Thousands march, fundraise, and sport pink clothing to call attention to the disease. Yet little will be said about heart disease, which kills more women than lung cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer combined, according to Jyoti Sharma, M.D., a cardiologist with Piedmont Heart Institute
“As women, we’re often so busy taking care of everyone else that we overlook things that are going on with our bodies,” said Dr. Sharma. “We’ve done a great job of being mindful of breast cancer but not much else that threatens our health. Heart disease is a bigger threat to women’s health than most of us realize.”
It is estimated that one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime while one in three women will have heart disease in her lifetime. Heart disease poses a particular threat to women in Georgia, which has the 12th highest death rate from cardiovascular disease in the country.
In the state of Georgia, heart disease and stroke account for 28.2 percent of all female deaths, according to the American Heart Association. That’s the equivalent of about 27 deaths each day.
“Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States,” said Dr. Sharma, who has received a national award for excellence from the American Heart Association’s clinical council on Women in Cardiology. “The trouble is: how many women actually are aware of that fact?”
Putting Georgia women more at risk for heart disease and stroke is lifestyle, especially eating habits. More than half of all women in Georgia are obese and overweight, according to the American Heart Association. Additionally, over 15 percent of women smoke cigarettes – another risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
“I encourage women to see a preventive cardiologist earlier in life, before problems arise,” said Dr. Sharma, who received her medical degree from Emory University School of Medicine. “Working with your doctor to establish heart healthy habits early on and preventing heart disease is much easier and certainly less expensive than paying for medications and procedures once the problem is detected.”
For women who do not have a pre-existing heart issue, Piedmont offers a screening inclusive of a physical exam, lab work, and complete health history. Women who participate in the screening receive a comprehensive heart health report they can take home with detailed recommendations and next steps.
For more information or to sign up for the women’s heart health screening at Piedmont, visit piedmont.org/red.