Medical advances in heart disease and stroke prevention among women were topics highlighted during a benefit in Skokie on Nov. 6 that raised more than $300,000 to support research and education for heart disease.
World-renown cardiologists Annabelle Volgman, medical director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center; and Chaim Lotan, head of the Heart Institute at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem joined the Women’s Zionist Jewish organization, Northbrook-based Hadassah Chicago-North Shore, to host “Heart-to-Heart: Every Beat Counts” dinner, an event attended by 250 people.
The benefit, a “huge success,” according to Michelle Rubin, president of Hadassah Chicago North-Shore, who said attendees contributed donations ranging from $25 to $50,000.
Women’s heart health is Hadassah’s national initiative this year, and the Skokie benefit is one of hundreds of fundraisers that have been held throughout the U.S. in 2013.
The money raised will help support heart research at several hospitals and a medical school in Israel affiliated with Hadassah, along with other U.S.-based heart health initiatives, Rubin said.
“Heart disease is the number one killer of women, but most people don’t know that,” Rubin said. “Women don’t listen to the subtle warning signs, so they don’t get the same interventions that men are getting.”
Statistics estimate that more than 9 million women worldwide die from heart disease each year, and in Illinois there were 12,372 heart-disease deaths among women in 2009 alone, making it a leading cause of death, according to Hadassah’s statistics.
Volgman, who helped start the women’s heart center at Rush University Medical Center 10 years ago, covered a wide range of topics, including stroke risk and prevention, and how calcium intake can increase heart attack risk.
“The message was to empower women, because they should be the advocates for their own health,” Volgman said. “I hope women went away more educated, and I think they really appreciated all the new information they learned.”
Highlights of Volgman’s advice included: too much calcium in older women can lead to a heart attack, the stroke risk among women under age 55 is higher than ever, and new research may lead to more people being on cholesterol drugs.
Strokes among women between 34 and 55-years old have skyrocketed from .5 percent in the 1980s to 3 percent today, Volgman said.
“It’s a combination of the obesity epidemic, birth control pills and strong family history,” Volgman said, adding that the percentage of obese women has shot up to 30 percent today from 5 percent in the 1980s.
“By itself, birth control doesn’t cause a significant risk, but women need to make sure they’re safe enough health-wise to be on those medications,” Volgman said.
Volgman also said women should never take more calcium than the recommended daily dose for their age range, and if there’s enough calcium being ingested through diet, then supplements should not be used.
Different types of heart disease were also covered, including microvascular dysfunction, which is a fairly common condition where arteries look normal on heart scan tests, but for unknown reasons the arterial pathways don’t function properly.
“These patients don’t have any blockages at all, but still have a risk of dying from heart attacks,” Volgman said. “Some doctors will say there’s nothing wrong, but we say you need a second opinion.”