02 February 2018

American Heart Month, Women's Heart Health

February is American Heart Month, a federally designated event designed to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends. and communities involved.

As anyone who has supported or followed US Senator Bernie Sanders knows, the costs associated with healthcare in the United States continue to skyrocket, while the outcomes of that care continue to decline. It's gotten so bad that major corporations are forming their own healthcare networks to help keep costs down. The American Heart Association (AHA) provides the following facts that confirm our nation's declining health and broken healthcare system:

Graphic from the Go Red for Women campaign of the
American Heart Association showcasing fact that
heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the USA
Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading global cause of death with more than 17.9 million deaths each year. This amounts to 2,300 Americans dying of cardiovascular disease each day. That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030, which is more than 600 more deaths per day.

According to the US Census, there is one death every 11 seconds. The AHA reports that one death is caused by cardiovascular disease every 38 seconds. This means nearly one out of every 3.5 deaths in the United States is due to cardiovascular disease. If my math is correct, by the year 2030 that number will rise to one out of three deaths being due to cardiovascular disease, a crisis of epidemic proportions.

Senator Sanders recently proposed an update to his universal healthcare coverage bill, a Medicare-for-All plan that would provide real and universal healthcare coverage to every citizen in the United States. And that would help this epidemic of cardiovascular health issues we face. To explain it, he sidestepped corporate media and livestreamed a town hall. Over 1.1 million unique devices logged in to watch the event, which you can view below in case you missed it.

But there's more to it. We need to talk about our health issues and understand them and the risks associated with them (which also comes with better healthcare).

What's talked about even less is the impact of cardiovascular health for women. How many women know some of the basic facts surrounding heart health? The graphic to the right, from Heart Truth, a campaign from the US Department of Health, provides some basic facts to help get you started (click on it to enlarge).

But we need more than this. Even on the AHA's website, finding information specific to women's cardiovascular issues was not prominent, nor was it presented in accessible-friendly formats (e.g., some of the information is non-captioned video).

As I have been writing this, a member of my family has been in Greenwich Hospital's emergency room with a possible heart attack. That person is my sister, Jenn.

Her symptoms include pain, burning, and numbness running down her left arm, under her arm, and across her chest, coupled with shortness of breath and increased sweating, in addition to nausea and dizziness, i.e., classic signs of heart attack in women.

But she also is dealing with metastatic breast cancer and thinks her breast implant (from the reconstructive breast surgery she had after her bilateral mastectomy from her 2nd round of breast cancer in 2009) has burst and is leaking. So her health is complicated. I've sent her some literature on heart attacks in women, and it's giving her pause for thought.

So even in my own family, which is hyper-aware and vigilant with health issues, we falter and are lacking in knowledge of some very basic health facts. And that shouldn't be the case.

We all must take care of our health. And we must learn the signs of our health's biggest foes. Here's a starting point for women: Heart attack symptoms in women,

I just received word that the ER discharged my sister with a claim that there was nothing wrong with her. But she's not one to go to hospital on a lark.

I know her symptoms could be a number of things. But to send someone home when they're displaying obvious signs of distress is, to me, not health CARE. And for this, she has the privilege of paying tens of thousands of dollars a year for medical "insurance." And that doesn't include her co-payments.

The hospital left the IV (intravenous) line in her arm when they discharged her. She is in so much discomfort that she didn't realize it until she got home and changed for bed. I advised her to take a baby aspirin, just in case this is a heart attack. I'm very worried about her, as our family has quite a history of coronary heart disease and related cardiac issues (some of which with I myself am dealing).

For all our sakes, I hope we take some time to speak with our doctors and care providers, learn about the health risks that are present and that are particular to our situation. I hope we will find the will and political might to stand up to the corporate and monied interests to take back our country and begin providing real care for our citizens, beginning with implementing Senator Sander's Medicare-for-All plan, which even the business community is beginning to support.

If you haven't watched Sanders' town hall, I urge you to do so. The video is embedded above. He brings in panelists from all backgrounds, including small and medium business owners. It was very interesting to hear their take on healthcare in this country and how it affects their businesses.

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