Lucy Mouradian had all the warning signs of cardiac illness, but despite having been a nurse for 28 years and suffering from high blood pressure, Mouradian ignored her risk factors until her heart attack in May 1998.
“I was so busy working, taking care of my family and doing things for others that I didn’t think about my needs,” Mouradian, 67, said. “I knew the symptoms and my own risks but put my needs behind everyone else.”
As part of an education campaign launched Monday, Yale-New Haven Hospital will try to make women like Mouradian aware that they are at high risk for heart disease.
The hospital will collaborate with VHA Inc., a national alliance of 2,100 health care organizations, to implement the new initiative to raise awareness of cardiac problems among women.
The initiative, the first of its kind nationally, will also address the way physicians handle detection, treatment and prevention of women with heart disease.
“This is the first time that a hospital, the American Heart Association and women in the community have collaborated to battle heart disease,” said R. Kyle Kramer, executive director of cardiovascular services at Yale-New Haven Heart Center. “We’ll make sure this program is a success.”
The program was the result of extensive research by VHA to determine levels of awareness of women in the New Haven community. In a random phone survey of 299 women, 85 percent of the participants qualified as being at risk for heart disease, yet only 30 percent were aware of their diagnosis.
“Many women assume heart disease is a man’s disease and haven’t always had the same access to diagnostic treatment as men,”American Heart Association President Rose Marie Robertson said. “Women need to think about heart health, and this program will make a dramatic difference.”
Robertson added that about one of every two women will die of cardiovascular problems, making it the leading killer of women in the United States.
In response to these findings, Yale-New Haven is implementing a Women’s Heart Line (1-866-HEART10) that will offer heart and symptom assessments over the telephone. The hospital will also distribute “action” cards in order to better inform women in the community about their cardiac health.
The hospital also intends to combat a lack of communication between women and their physicians concerning heart disease. The study found that 77 percent of women obtain information about heart disease from a source other than their physician.
“We want women to be assertive when talking with their physician about heart disease,” Yale-New Haven cardiologist Teresa Caulin-Glaser said. “If women are not getting information from their doctor, they should seek a second opinion.”
Yale-New Haven cardiologists will work with family physicians to encourage discussion of risk factors and diagnostic testing with patients, especially those at risk.
Caulin-Glaser said the hospital intends to spread the message to the New Haven community by utilizing local newspapers and television. The hospital, which has a comprehensive cardiac program and treats over 3,000 patients for heart disease a year, will also seek the support of local businesses and community events in the coming months.