Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States and worldwide. Yet, many women are unaware of early warning signs and risk factors that make them vulnerable. The most common early warning sign of a heart attack is unusual fatigue. Other red flags include chest pain, frequent heartburn or indigestion, pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulder, arm, back, neck, jaw, teeth, and sometimes upper belly, and shortness of breath.  I encourage my employer, WomenHeart, to develop a strategic communication plan that provides a direct course of action to countless women who experience cardiovascular disease.

Many people associate cardiovascular disease (CVD) predominately as a medical condition among men who exhibit poor lifestyle habits. While men are undoubtedly susceptible to heart attack or stroke, the same logic holds for women with similar habits. However, people are more apt to instinctively tie women’s health issues to breast cancer than cardiovascular disease. Medical practitioners further compound the problem as many misconstrue CVD as predominately a male health issue. As a result, women are often undertreated, underrepresented in clinical trials, and less likely than men to receive preventative treatment. “For many decades, CVD research has focused primarily on men, thus leading to an underappreciation of sex differences from an etiologic, diagnostic, and therapeutic perspective” (Garcia et al., 2016).

In 2014, a survey conducted by the Women’s Heart Alliance (WHA) set out to determine barriers and opportunities for women and physicians regarding cardiovascular disease (CVD). The findings showed that 45% of women were unaware that CVD was the leading cause of death in women. Even more disturbing, the result found that just 22% of primary care providers (PCPs) and 42% of cardiologists felt extremely prepared to assess the risk in women, while 42% and 40% felt well-prepared, respectively (Merz et al., 2017). “I think most people believe that breast cancer, or gynecological cancer, tends to be the biggest killer in women, but it still continues to be heart disease,” said Leslie Cho, M.D., Director of the Women’s Cardiology Center at Cleveland Clinic. “The reason why that’s so important is because 90 percent of heart disease comes from risk factors that you can control – blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, diabetes” (Many Don’t Realize, S., 2020).

  My targeted audiences are local women in Boca Raton, Florida, classified as high-risk, primary care providers and cardiologists, and nearby hospitals. The local WomenHeart chapter of Boca Raton currently meets monthly online via zoom.  The meetings are led by trained patient volunteers and provide women living with heart disease with critical peer-to-peer support, information, and encouragement.  Our group has partnered with another local organization, Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute, to host a monthly meeting called Women Living With Heart Disease Support Group at Boca Regional Hospital.

Women Heart’s website has the necessary information divided into the following categories:  prevent, diagnose, treat, and thrive. This information, which includes understanding family history, risk factors, questions for physicians, and tips for treating and recovering from heart disease, must be incorporated into a formal communication plan. The plan should be downloadable as a PDF link on the company website. Finally, it should include tips on maintaining a healthy diet, optimal body weight, a list of aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises,  warning signs of heart attack and stroke, encouraging limiting alcohol and eliminating smoking, and taking care of mental health.

References & Resources

Bairey Merz, C. N., Andersen, H., Sprague, E., Burns, A., Keida, M., Walsh, M. N., Greenberger, P., Campbell, S., Pollin, I., McCullough, C., Brown, N., Jenkins, M., Redberg, R., Johnson, P., & Robinson, B. (2017). Knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding cardiovascular disease in women. Journal of the American College of Cardiology70(2), 123–132.

Clinic, C. (n.d.). Heart disease in women: Risk factors, symptoms and prevention. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved July 10, 2022, from–cardiovascular-disease

Clinic, M. (2022, May 21). Heart attack. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved July 10, 2022, from

Elflein, J. (2022, March 7). Top 10 causes of death among women U.S. 2019. Statista. Retrieved July 10, 2022, from

Garcia, M., Mulvagh, S. L., Bairey Merz, C. N., Buring, J. E., & Manson, J. A. E. (2016). Cardiovascular disease in women. Circulation Research118(8), 1273–1293.

Heart, W. (2022). Your heart journey: Womenheart. WomenHeart Your Heart Journey. Retrieved July 10, 2022, from

Many Don’t Realize, S. (2020, January 31). Survey: Many don’t realize heart disease is #1 killer for women (PKG). Cleveland Clinic Newsroom. Retrieved July 10, 2022, from