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Why We Created a Foundation Devoted to Women’s Hearts

Prof. Claire Mounier-Vehier, MD, and Thierry Drilhon created the Women’s Cardiovascular Healthcare Foundation (Agir pour le Coeur des Femmes) to mobilize people to tackle the cardiovascular disease emergency in women with the goal of saving 10,000 women’s lives in five years. We have one motto: “Prevention rather than treatment!”

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We cannot allow cardiovascular diseases to continue being a symbol of the inequality between women and men in the health arena. Every day in France, they kill 200 women and treatment is often delayed essentially because people are ignorant of the reality. Yet eight out of every 10 cardiovascular events can be avoided with a better lifestyle and appropriate screening. Cardiovascular diseases are no longer just a concern for men. With more than 75,000 deaths per year in France, they are the leading cause of death among women, a reality that most people still aren’t aware of, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment. However, cardiovascular disease kills six times more women than breast cancer.1 There has been a sharp increase in the number of heart attacks among young women in France: a 5% increase in hospitalizations for women aged 45 to 54.2 This is due to harmful changes to their lifestyles with more smoking, stress, obesity and sedentary days. At the same age, women have more risk factors than men. High blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol have a more toxic impact on women’s arteries. And women are more likely to face psychosocial factors, which have become a major cardiovascular risk factor. Women have different warning signs than men and are diagnosed late, which significantly increases their risk of dying or not recovering to full health.3 In addition, women don’t receive enough screening and monitoring even though they need additional attention at three key hormone stages: when they first start or change birth control methods, during pregnancy and during menopause.3 These epidemiological findings demonstrate why coordinated gynecardiology care pathways need to be developed for these women, as is done in the United States with Women’s Heart Centers.4 Women don’t receive the same level of medical care because their treatments often don’t take into account their specific metabolism. Most cardiovascular research studies are conducted with men. The disease also develops differently in women with specific and complex pathophysiological characteristics related to their hormonal stage.3 “We need to take action to address this epidemiological and societal emergency by going further and faster and being more concrete in our approach to warn people about the disease, providing information and promoting prevention,” says Prof. Claire Mounier-Vehier, MD, cardiologist at University Hospital of Lille and co-founder of the foundation. “In my practice, I see that women are neglecting their health. Women believe they’re protected until they reach menopause. They don’t think they’ll be impacted, are unaware of the atypical symptoms and feel guilty taking care of themselves.5 All of these complex preconceived ideas contribute to lost opportunities and treatment that’s insufficient or delayed. In some cases, women don’t get treatment at all. We need to evolve our practices towards integrated care pathways that involve all members of the healthcare team while also giving women important screening and follow-up information. To support them, healthcare professionals need to come together and share the knowledge they’ve gained in their practices, mobilizing this incredible collective intelligence. Thierry and I are so proud to put our knowledge, network and expertise to work in pursuit of this transformational vision.” Thierry Drilhon is a business leader and president of the Franco-British Chamber of Commerce. His involvement as co-founder is symbolic of the foundation’s desire to make a difference on the international level with support from executive leaders in the financial, civil and healthcare sectors who have been appointed to the board of directors. “We’re working together to create collective intelligence through an ecosystem of mobilized stakeholders. Our priorities are to Alert, Anticipate and Act to promote offensive prevention in the field with the goal of saving the lives of 10,000 women around the world in five years,” says Drilhon. “To reach this goal, Claire and I are combining our medical, scientific, social and financial expertise to drive engagement and make this health emergency a priority.” 1BEH Santé Publique France, November 2019
2BEH Santé Publique France, March 2016
3Woodwart M et al. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2019 4Brown HL et al. Circulation 2018 5Fédération Française de Cardiologie IFOP study, January 2018

 

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