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For Release:
February 06, 2004

Clifton R. Lacy, M.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Donna Leusner

Commissioner Lacy Urges Awareness of Cardiovascular Disease in Women


TRENTON – In recognition of Women’s Heart Week, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. urges women to learn their risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and implement interventions to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women both nationally and in New Jersey.  In the U.S. alone, over a half-million women die annually of CVD – that is more than the number of CVD deaths in men and more than the number of deaths caused by the next seven leading causes of death in women combined.  In the United States, this translates into approximately one woman losing her life to CVD every minute.  As part of a national campaign encouraging women to pay attention to their hearts, the American Heart Association on Wednesday issued new guidelines to help women reduce their CVD risk.  The guidelines were published in the February 10, 2004 issue of the American Heart Association journal, Circulation.

“Women need to become more aware of their risk of cardiovascular disease and take appropriate preventive measures to avoid first or recurrent heart attacks and strokes,” said Dr. Lacy.  “Smoking cessation, weight maintenance, a heart healthy diet, and 30 minutes of daily exercise are among the lifestyle behaviors that women should incorporate into their lives to reduce their CVD risk.”  “In addition to lifestyle interventions, a number of major risk factor interventions and preventive drug interventions have been shown to decrease the risk of heart attack, stroke, and CVD-related deaths.”

In both New Jersey and nationally, women represent approximately 54% of all deaths from CVD.  In the U.S. in 2000, over 505,000 women died of cardiovascular disease, compared with approximately 440,000 men.  In New Jersey in 2001, more than 15,700 women died of cardiovascular disease compared with more than 12,800 men.

“Women and their health care providers should also be aware that heart attack presents differently in women.  It can be misdiagnosed because many women do not experience chest pain or other classic symptoms,” stated Dr. Lacy.

Nearly two-thirds of deaths occur among women with no history of chest pain.  Instead, women may feel nausea, indigestion, and dizziness, and may have trouble catching their breath.  Some also experience feelings of anxiety, much like a panic attack.

In an effort to increase awareness of CVD risk factors, Governor James E. McGreevey issued a proclamation this week urging all New Jerseyans to take part in the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign by wearing red today, Friday, February 06, 2004.

The Department of Health and Senior Services is addressing this important health issue by creating a Center for Cardiovascular Initiatives and will be launching a new cardiovascular health initiative this spring.  In addition, the Department’s Office of Women’s Health (OWH) recently addressed cardiovascular disease in women through a $200,000 grant given to the Women’s Heart Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the survival and quality of life for women with heart disease.

Under the grant, the Women’s Heart Foundation has launched a “Take New Jersey Women to Heart” initiative, which includes a statewide media campaign and the dissemination of educational materials to raise awareness about women’s heart disease.

The initiative also includes a focus on health disparities among minority women in New Jersey; the development of a curriculum for a women’s heart wellness center with a focus on elderly women; the implementation of a Teen Esteem Program, which focuses on nutrition and physical activity for adolescent girls at Trenton Central High School; and a mother-daughter heart walk event in partnership with the Delaware Valley Girl Scouts.

The Women’s Heart Foundation will also be sponsoring a series of educational events throughout the month of February, which are designed to focus on women’s heart health.  A complete listing of event times and locations can be found on the web at:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' National Institute of Health offers a free copy of the Healthy Heart Handbook for Women on the web at  For additional information, visit the American Heart Association's website at, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at, or the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services website at


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