October 2, 2006
time for a heart-to-heart
Michael M.E. Johns is executive vice president for Health Affairs and chief executive officer of Emory Healthcare.
Heart disease kills more people in America each year than any other disease. Stroke is the third leading killer and a leading cause of disability. Many think that heart disease is mostly something for men to worry about. But women are at least equally at risk.
According to the American Heart Association, one in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, since 1984, the number of CVD deaths for women has exceeded those for males. In 2003, 483,842 female died with underlying CVD, compared with 426,772 males. Women now represent 53.1 percent of deaths from heart disease. About 6 million women today have a history of heart attack, angina pectoris (chest pain or discomfort caused by reduced blood supply to the heart muscle) or both. Of these, about 3 million have a history of myocardial infarction (MI, or heart attack). And African American women have higher CVD death rates than Caucasian women. Heart disease is an equal opportunity killer and we all need to be heart-wise and health conscious.
Don’t think that symptoms of heart disease will just boldly announce themselves, like one often sees in chest-clutching scenes in the movies. Yes, sometimes a heart attack occurs this way, but more often, there are subtler signs that arise after heart-related problems have had a long time to develop.
This is one reason why Emory Healthcare has for so many decades put major resources into creating one of the world’s top clinical services teams for heart disease. And this is why we also so strongly support the American Heart Association in its activities to promote heart-healthy education and support in the community (in addition to its support for scientific and clinical efforts to prevent and treat heart disease).
This year’s Atlanta Heart Walk will be held on Nov. 5 and Emory teams are forming. The Emory community is invited to join a team and to participate in this important event. For more information or to register, visit
www.emoryhealthcare.org/index.html and click on the link Heart Walk.
The American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute have launched a new “Act in Time” campaign to increase awareness of heart attack and the importance of calling 9-1-1 as soon as possible during a heart attack. It is vitally important to pay attention to symptoms because every second counts in getting help and preventing lasting damage or death. Most heart attacks start slowly, with the most common symptom being chest pain or discomfort like pressure, or squeezing, or a sense of fullness in the center of the chest. This can last a few minutes or it can go away and come back. The discomfort can extend to one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness can also occur, with or without chest discomfort. Women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
If you or someone you’re with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other signs, don’t wait to call for help. Immediately call 9-1-1. This is the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment. Emergency medical responders can begin treatment far sooner than if someone is driven to the hospital in a car. Emergency responders are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped. And patients who arrive by ambulance will usually receive quicker treatment at the hospital.
To learn more about symptoms, prevention and treatment, visit www.emoryhealthcare.org; http://americanheart.org, or call the Emory HealthConnection:
And sign up for the Health Walk today!