Healthcare Insider Blog

DNP students focus on preventing leading causes of death in women

  • Healthcare Alvernia

For years heart disease, above cancer or any other factor, has acted as the number one leading cause of death in women in the U.S according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — Even more so than in men.

In the past, the majority of research done on heart disease and effort towards preventative measures has been focused around men, according to cardiologist Dr. Marianna Legato in a recent interview with NPR.

This could be partially due to the fact that symptoms are much more obvious in men, with most experiencing classic chest pain when having a heart attack. Though this is a popular symptom in women as well, 15 percent of women experience other symptoms in place of chest pain when having a heart attack, such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Extreme perspiration
  • Dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

As nurse practitioners step out into the field with the goals of health assessments, early detection and prevention for all patients, it is important to understand the different symptoms women can experience when suffering from heart disease.

Dr. Legato told NPR, “Every woman should not restrict her medical care only to the gynecologist, but should seek out a primary care doctor or internist who will evaluate her as a whole person and regularly check her health.”

“So I think the index of suspicion should be high that women do suffer from heart disease, that it is their chief cause of death and not always at an older age.”

It is a common perception that heart disease only affects women over 65. However, that is not true. Heart disease can strike women of all ages, and in fact in younger populations the disease is more quickly fatal than in older women.

The CDC provides an interactive map that shows the number of deaths or hospitalizations for women all across the country and state, as well as in Berks County and surrounding areas, due to heart disease. Pennsylvania exceeds the national average of 260 heart disease-related deaths per 100,000 people each year by 13.

Among counties in PA, at 257 heart disease deaths per 100,000 women, yet some surrounding counties like Schuylkill and Columbia rank among the highest in the state and country.

This issue is relevant and it is affecting those in our county. Alvernia Doctor of Nursing Practice students will train to identify early signs of heart disease, as well as other women’s health issues through classes like NUR 613: Family Nurse Practitioner II: Women’s Healthcare Issues.

DNP students will learn wellness maintenance, early detection, and prompt treatment methods of acute illnesses in women. They will focus on viewing and assessing health issues from a holistic perspective and closing the gap of health disparities among all women.

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