We already know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States. And while this statistic may still seem shocking, what’s even more so is the fact that 1 in every 3 women suffers from heart disease.
With these odds, the risk for cardiac arrest, or heart attacks, increases and continues to be something that we should be paying more attention to, especially with such a high chance of recurrence in women. So how can we combat post-cardiac arrest fear? Enter: cardiac rehabilitation.
Cardiac rehabilitation is a program that works like physical therapy for your heart. Once you suffer a heart attack, cardiac rehabilitation is a program that you can take part in to help strengthen your heart and alter your habits in order to prevent a recurrence. These kinds of programs normally include some form of exercise training, education on heart health and causes of heart disease or heart attacks as well as stress counseling (because we can’t overlook stress or anxiety as another important cause of heart problems).
Knowing this, you would think that everyone would participate in a cardiac rehabilitation program post-heart attack. However, the shocking truth gathered by researchers from the American Heart Association is that for the past 30 years, about 80 percent of women who have suffered from a heart attack and who could decrease their chances of a recurrence through cardiac rehabilitation either stopped going to their sessions or decided not to go at all.
If there is a possibility for you to improve your heart health, it would make sense to do so — but it’s unfortunate to know that so many women that could benefit are either unable to continue or decide it isn’t worth their time.
The women who were not able to complete the program included a variety of demographics: those who were unmarried, smokers, obese, elderly and those with less social support. Interestingly enough, those who were depressed also chose not to complete their cardiac rehabilitation program. According to the study, cardiac rehab is supposed to help improve depression, but ironically, those women are the ones more likely to avoid it altogether. This increases the risks of recurrences even further since depression has been directly linked to heart health.
Is it an issue of accessibility, or is it an issue of aversion? These are the things that we need to highlight, and put greater stress on in order for women to combat the risks of heart disease and cardiac issues, as well as learn how to continue to live a healthy life.
According to the Washington Post, “women, in addition to the family responsibilities and financial barriers, also can face transportation problems,” and these are all daily factors that can add up to women putting other tasks first before their own well-being.
So how do we get women more interested or more concerned with their heart health? Perhaps new methods have to be implemented in order to incite a more enthusiastic desire to be proactive about cardiac health and wellness. Once we strike that happy medium between making it more accessible for women everywhere and making it more applicable to the life of the everyday woman, those awful statistics may finally change for the better.