Although 73 percent of women know how to prevent heart disease, many are unaware of how to treat it once a diagnosis has been made.
In a survey of 1,979 women over age 35, only 55 percent said they understand how to treat heart disease. Respondents often incorrectly named prevention techniques such as exercise and healthy eating as treatment options, and less than 10 percent named actual treatments such as angioplasty and stent placement.
Hispanics and African-Americans, both considered high-risk groups for heart disease, were twice as likely as Caucasian women to say they did not know any treatments at all.
The survey was conducted by the “Healthy From the Heart” campaign sponsored by the National Women’s Health Resource Center and Cordis Corp. The campaign encourages women to learn about treatment options for coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease, so they can make better decisions if diagnosed.
“The good news is that women are aware that they are at risk for heart disease. The bad news is that they are overly confident in their ability to prevent it and treat it,” said Dr. Cindy Grines, an interventional cardiologist with William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oaks, Mich. “Women must realize that education is the key to conquering the threat of coronary artery disease. There are a variety of treatment options now available.”
The most common procedure for treating coronary artery disease is balloon angioplasty with a coronary stent. Angioplasty widens narrowed arteries by threading a balloon-tipped catheter through the arm or groin artery to the blocked artery in the heart. The balloon is inflated to compress the plaque against the artery walls, which in turn expands the blood vessel so blood can flow more easily.
Scientific advances have led to the development of the drug-eluting stent, a tiny mesh scaffold that props the artery open while releasing small amounts of a particular drug, such as sirolimus, inside the artery over a period of time. This helps keep plaque from reforming and helps prevent repeat blockage from occurring inside the blood vessel.
Coronary bypass surgery is another treatment option. While more invasive, it is a safe and effective treatment for patients who may not qualify for angioplasty and stent insertion.