November 18, 2014


In letters to HHS, CDC and NIH leaders, Senators call for greater focus combating heart disease as number one killer of women

WASHINGTONU.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) today were joined by a bipartisan group of Senate women including U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) in announcing that they have called on federal health leaders to prioritize combating heart disease, which is the number one killer of women in America.

“Heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined and, since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease. Yet, for the last 50 years, women’s heart treatment has largely been based on medical research on men – often to negative results,” the Senators wrote. “Every minute, a woman dies from heart disease. We cannot let another year pass with 400,000 more women dying because these disparities are not addressed. While not enough is being done to recognize the differences and appropriately treat heart disease in women, we believe that your leadership could have a huge impact on combating women’s cardiovascular disease.”

“Heart disease manifests itself differently in men and women but is the number one leading cause of death for both, nationally and in Hawaii. Not enough research and education has been done on how to diagnose and treat women. Change must occur to ensure that our mothers, friends, daughters, and sisters have a fighting chance against this deadly disease,” said Senator Hirono.

In a letter (available here) to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia Burwell, Senators Mikulski, Stabenow, Feinstein, Boxer, Murray, Landrieu, Cantwell, Gillibrand, Baldwin and Hirono call on the agency to examine existing HHS programs in an effort to determine if more resources can be directed toward women’s cardiovascular disease. Joined by Senator Ayotte in letters (available here and here) to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Thomas Frieden and Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dr. Francis Collins, the Senators called on these agencies to ensure women’s heart health is a greater focus in health education, science, and research.

“Fighting for women’s health has been one of my life-long priorities. For far too long, women did not believe heart disease was their disease,” said Senator Mikulski, a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “When I first came to the Senate, women’s health wasn’t a national priority. We’ve changed that paradigm but we’re not done yet. I continue to fight for women to get the preventive care and treatment they need to live healthy lives. We must raise awareness, raise consciousness, and raise hell so that women are not left behind when it comes to their health.”

“Unfortunately, a majority of women and even some doctors are unfamiliar with the symptoms, diagnoses, and dangers of heart disease in women,” said Senator Stabenow. “When we help educate women and their doctors, create more opportunities for women to get screenings, and get more money for research, we can fight this disease and save lives.”

The Senate women’s outreach coincides with the launch of Fight the Ladykiller, a campaign to raise awareness, encourage action and drive new research to fight women’s heart disease. The campaign is an effort of the newly formed Women’s Heart Alliance, founded by Barbra Streisand and Ronald O. Perelman and two of America’s leading medical institutions – the Barbara Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

“At a time when 1 in 3 women in the U.S. dies from heart disease, it is critical that we prioritize funding for screening, treatment, and research that will raise awareness and save lives,” said Senator Patty Murray.  “The warning signs for cardiovascular diseases are often different for women than for men, and we must ensure women across the country have the information they need on prevention and treatment.”

“Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women in America. And it especially affects women in my home state. I always encourage women in Louisiana and across our country to get regular check-ups and to make heart healthy choices,” said Senator Landrieu. “Our health leaders must engage in vigorous research of heart disease in women. I am proud to be joined by women on both sides of the aisle to advocate for a renewed focus on this issue to help save the lives of women across our country.”

“We have a responsibility to do everything we can to fight a disease that claims more lives of women in America than any other cause,” Senator Gillibrand said.  “We owe it to women in America to make sure they have access to the screenings and the care they need. I urge HHS to analyze their current programs to make sure doctors, clinics and researchers are sufficiently armed with the resources they need to reach out and treat more women, and save lives.”

“Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., but we still don’t know enough about how certain risk factors can impact women differently than men nor how symptoms unique to women can help assist with early detection,” said Senator Ayotte.  “By calling on the NIH and CDC to prioritize women’s heart health, including placing a focus on more representative research, we can encourage greater awareness of women’s cardiovascular health and promote more screenings that can help save women’s lives.”

“It is past time to level the playing field when it comes to treatments for women’s health and to fill the gaps in scientific research about diseases that affect women, like heart disease,” Senator Baldwin said. “We must continue to prioritize women’s health studies, prevention and education efforts to ensure that all women have what they need to live a healthy life.”