Despite the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, cardiovascular disease remains the leading killer of women in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association's newly released 2021 Heart Disease & Stroke Statistics.
Heart disease kills one woman approximately every 80 seconds, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined, and cardiac events are on the rise in young women in their 20s, the Association's data says.
At the same time, it seems that the youngest, most diverse groups of women are the least aware that cardiovascular disease is their greatest health threat.
After battling COVID in March, Cynthia Biondi's heart starting bothering her.
"Chest pain, palpitation, rapid heartbeat, I just ignored it in the beginning," she said.
But finally, she called her primary care doctor, who is also a cardiologist at White Plains Hospital.
"She came to me afterwards with shortness of breath, palpitations, pressure, which is seen in post-COVID patients," Dr. Jeannette Yuen said. "And as Dr. Fauci had said, they're called the long haulers."
Dr. Yuen encouraged some life style changes, and Biondi has since has lost 19 pounds, walks frequently, and meditates.
"Women often disregard or delay care," Dr. Yuen said.
And she says that's especially true during the pandemic, as symptoms are often subtle compared to what men experience. The causes can also be different.
"There's new research developed showing that women actually have different types of heart disease from men," Dr. Yuen said. "Our risk factors can stem from early start of menstruation, use of birth control pills, treatment from ovarian and breast cancers."
In Biondi's case, COVID may be what caused her palpations. But now, the 53-year-old is putting herself first.
"It's my kids, my husband, my dog, and you worry about yourself last," she said. "Otherwise you won't be there to take care of anyone else."
Women (and men) are encouraged to "wear red and give" as part of the American Heart Association's signature movement, Go Red for Women, which is nationally sponsored by CVS Health and supported by Big Lots.
"We're now seeing cardiovascular disease affecting younger women, and women from Black and Hispanic communities are disproportionally impacted by heart disease and stroke," said Dr. Mitch Elkind, president of the American Heart Association and professor of neurology and epidemiology at Columbia University in New York City. "Now, more than ever, we need to ensure all women have access to education about heart attack and stroke warning signs, as well as proper diagnoses and treatment when they present with symptoms - regardless of their age or background. Losing even one woman to heart disease or stroke is a tragedy."
People are encouraged to keep the movement going all month long by wearing the iconic Red Dress pin, making a donation to the American Heart Association at WearRedDay.org, making a donation at a CVS register in-store, and signing up to participate in the lifesaving Research Goes Red Initiative, a collaboration between the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women movement and Verily's Project Baseline.
You can join in the conversation about Go Red for Women Day by using #WearRedDay, #HeartMonth and #GoRedforWomen on social media.