UF Health Shands Hospital has joined a national alliance to teach women about heart disease and its risk factors.
WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a network of hospitals around the country committed to providing cardiovascular care to women, said Elaine Vining, the senior director of the National Hospital Alliance at WomenHeart.
The program is gender-specific because research proves that heart disease is different in men and women, she said.
“Having cardiac specific care, research and support for women with heart disease is important,” Vining said.
Ki Park, an interventional cardiologist at Shands, applied for a grant through WomenHeart, which will provide the hospital $30,000 over the course of two years. Park said she requested the grant to increase awareness about women’s heart disease in the community.
“The idea is to help support women in our town or our area who have heart disease diagnoses and provide for them resources and support groups, and really just for education to the community as a whole,” Park said.
Shands will host a series of seminars discussing women’s cardiovascular health, Park said.
Two female survivors of heart disease in the Gainesville area, called WomenHeart champions, will be asked to participate in the program. These women will be trained to talk to people in the community about their experiences and offer resources, discuss warning signs and highlight risks of heart disease.
The program helps hospitals aid women struggling with heart disease, Vining said.
“We want as many hospitals engaged in the support and the education and the advocacy for women living with heart disease or women at risk for heart disease,” she said. “We’re thrilled that Shands hospital has become a part of our network.”
The membership with WomenHeart will provide practitioners at Shands with resources that will educate them on how to diagnose and prevent heart disease in women.
“We want folks that are in the trenches around heart disease in women to talk with each other and engage each other about what’s working in their hospital or community,” Vining said. “We really want hospital clinicians to learn more about the manifestation of heart disease in women so that we reduce the number of delays of care and therapy.”
Vining said people tend to assume that heart disease results from age, which is not the case. Rather, reducing risk factors such as obesity and smoking at a young age will increase a person’s heart health.
“Too often we think of heart disease as something that’s your grandmother’s disease, and it’s not your grandmother’s disease,” she said. “We need to think of heart disease as a women’s disease, not as an aging disease.”