It is February again of a new year of hope and progress!! Since it is the “The American Heart and Go Red for Women Month”, I would like to talk about the American Heart Association (AHA) GO RED initiative and discuss why heart disease in women is unique, urging my colleagues across the globe to work diligently to ensure optimal health and heart care for everyone, irrespective of their sex or gender.
What is the GO RED initiative and what does it mean?
The GO RED for Women initiative was launched in 2004 by the AHA with the aim to end heart disease and stroke in women worldwide; by increasing awareness of these diseases in women and removing barriers women face to achieve a healthy life.
Here is what GO RED means:
- G: GET YOUR NUMBERS
Check your blood pressure and cholesterol level regularly, and early in life if there is a strong family history of heart disease or hypertension.
- O: OWN YOUR LIFESTYLE
Encourage healthy lifestyle by stop smoking, losing weight, exercising, and eating healthy.
- R: REALIZE YOUR RISK
Know your risk; heart disease is responsible for 1 in every 5 female deaths .
- E: EDUCATE YOUR FAMILY
Educate your family members and make healthy food choices for you and your family.
- D: DON’T BE SILENT
Spread the knowledge that heart disease is No. 1 killer in women . It is also the No. 1 killer of pregnant women per Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data .
Why is heart disease unique in women?
Not only women tend to have atypical symptoms when they present with heart attacks, but also various diseases might behave differently in women potentially leading to differences in outcomes; highlighting the importance of vigilant clinicians in these cases. Women tend to have atypical symptoms when they present with heart attacks; so they tend to have nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, or atypical chest pain, in contrast to the typical exertional chest pain. Moreover, women have differences in their risk factor profile; a recent study has shown that women tend to have a different blood pressure trajectory; with blood pressure elevation starting as early as the third decade of life, and steeper increments of blood pressure over a lifetime compared to men . In addition to the risk factors, there are certain heart conditions that mainly affect women, including spontaneous coronary artery dissections, which is one of the major causes of heart attacks especially in young and pregnant women , eclampsia/pre-eclampsia, and peripartum cardiomyopathy, which still carry significant morbidity and mortality .
The medical community is still learning about these diseases and the exact mechanism of each condition; urging the need for more research in this area, launching more initiatives to support these projects, similar to the “Research Goes Red” initiative by the AHA, and expanding related sub-specialties like “cardio-obstetrics”, which is a niche subspecialty focused on the care of pregnant women with heart disease.
Although February is the “American Heart and Go Red for Women Month”, we should celebrate women’s heart health every single day by doing our best in our daily clinical practice, increasing awareness of heart disease and risk factors among women, and by working relentlessly to understand the knowledge gaps we have in order to provide better and optimal care for all of our patients.
I would like to say a special thank you to my mom, Laila Abdullah, and my sisters, Rawan, Razan, and Raghad, for their help on this blog and for their continued support.
 Women and Heart Disease: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/women.htm
 Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternal-mortality/pregnancy-mortality-surveillancesystem.htm?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Freproductivehealth%2Fmaternalinfanthealth%2Fpregnancy-mortality-surveillance-system.htm
 Ji H, Kim A, Ebinger JE, Niiranen TJ, Claggett BL, Bairey Merz CN, Cheng S. Sex Differences in Blood Pressure Trajectories Over the Life Course. JAMA Cardiol. 2020 Mar 1;5(3):19-26. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2019.5306. Erratum in: JAMA Cardiol. 2020 Mar 1;5(3):364. PMID: 31940010; PMCID: PMC6990675.
 Hayes SN, Kim ESH, Saw J, Adlam D, Arslanian-Engoren C, Economy KE, Ganesh SK, Gulati R, Lindsay ME, Mieres JH, Naderi S, Shah S, Thaler DE, Tweet MS, Wood MJ; American Heart Association Council on Peripheral Vascular Disease; Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Council on Genomic and Precision Medicine; and Stroke Council. Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection: Current State of the Science: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2018 May 8;137(19):e523-e557. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000564. Epub 2018 Feb 22. PMID: 29472380; PMCID: PMC5957087.
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