NIH at Emory to advance women’s heart health

NIH meets at Emory to discuss women's cardiovascular health and research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has convened a key meeting at Emory on women’s cardiovascular health and research. The meeting, co-hosted by the Office of Research on Women’s Health and Emory School of Medicine, is focused today and tomorrow on NIH planning of the women’s health research agenda for the next decade.

Vivian Pinn, MD, associate director for research on women’s health, and director of the Office of Research on Women’s Health at NIH, opened the meeting with Emory’s conference chair, Nanette Wenger, MD, professor of medicine (cardiology), Emory School of Medicine, and chief of cardiology at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Nanette K. Wenger, MD

In a career that spans more than 50 years, Wenger’s dedication to reducing women’s disability and death from cardiovascular disease has made her one of the country’s most-respected experts on coronary heart disease in women. In 2009, Wenger received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American College of Cardiology.

Although Wenger has earned dozens of awards in her celebrated career, she says her greatest professional achievement has been to help change a major paradigm in cardiology: the assumption that heart disease affects only men. A half a century ago heart disease was thought of as a “man’s disease.”

Today, thanks to the pioneering clinical and research efforts of Wenger, it is known that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the United States accounting for 38 percent of all female deaths, more mortality than all forms of cancers combined. Wenger helped write the 2007 Guidelines for Preventing Cardiovascular Disease in Women.

Today’s NIH event, “Moving Into the Future: New Dimensions and Strategies for Women’s Health Research,” is the final in a series of five meetings held across the United States. Experts are discussing topics including pregnancy and cardiovascular disease research and ethical considerations, and cardiovascular disease in elderly and frail elderly women, ethical considerations in advancing women’s cardiovascular health research, and the role of public and private partnerships in care, among other topics.

Cardiologists say women more often than men may experience heart attack symptoms other than chest pressure or radiating pain. These include jaw, neck, shoulder, or upper back pain; abdominal discomfort, nausea, or vomiting; shortness of breath; sweating or dizziness; or sudden flu-like fatigue. Read about one woman’s experience with her heart symptoms in Emory Magazine.

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