February is American Heart Month, and hospitals across the city are ramping up awareness of the leading cause of death in the country and the number-one killer of New York City women. NY1's Health reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.
Cardiologists at the Mount Sinai Hospital on the Upper East Side are focusing this American Heart Month on women.
"While one in 30 women die of breast cancer each year, one in three die of heart disease," says Beth Oliver, a registered nurse at Mount Sinai.
During 2010 in New York City, there were nearly 1,400 more cardiovascular-related deaths among women than men.
At Mount Sinai's recent "Women From The Heart" seminar, the hospital's top female heart doctors highlighted little-known red-flags for women.
"Pregnancy-related complications are other risk factors," says Dr. Maryann McLaughlin, the medical director of the Mount Sinai Cardiac Health Program.
McLaughlin says women who have had issues with high blood pressure, hypertension and diabetes during pregnancy have an increased risk of heart disease.
"What's important is that women with those complications tell their general doctors about that and more internists and cardiologists ask that as part of their history-taking," says McLaughlin.
Heart experts are also trying to build more awareness among black and Latina women, who are disproportionately affected by heart disease.
"Especially in African-American women, there's increased risk of hypertension. Sometimes that hypertension goes undetected and untreated for years," says McLaughlin. "A lot of women are in denial that their chest discomfort or their indigestion really could be their heart and they need to be agreeable to have the right testing done."
Socioeconomic status and availability of doctors in city neighborhoods where many minorities live are major factors in whether women seek preventative care.
Dr. Joanna Chikwe, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Mount Sinai, says unfortunately the vast majority of women she operates on are minorities, and and when they are in her care their situation is already dire.
"All of these women that come, they often come in their 50s and their 40s with heart disease. It's a story about really poor prevention," says Chikwe. "They haven't looked after their cholesterol, they haven't had a chance to look after their blood pressure. They may not even know that they've got high cholesterol, high blood sugar."