Forsyth Medical Center Launches Women and Heart Disease Initiative; Forsyth One of Fifteen Hospitals in Nation to Implement Program

    WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Jan. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- Heart disease is the No. 1
 killer of women, and women will continue to die from heart attacks and heart
 disease unless a new approach is taken.
     On January 31, 2002, Forsyth Medical Center and VHA Inc. launched locally
 the Women's HeartAdvantage program, a nationwide initiative to educate and
 change behavior among women about the threat of heart disease.
     Forsyth Medical Center joined VHA Inc., a nationwide alliance of
 healthcare organizations, and 15 other hospitals in announcing the program.
 The announcement marks the first time leading not-for-profit hospitals are
 working together to educate women about this serious health issue and change
 behavior in their own communities.
     "Heart disease claims more women's lives each year than any other disease,
 including breast cancer and all other cancers combined," said William Means,
 M.D., chief of the preventive cardiology program at Forsyth Medical Center.
 "We believe that an aggressive, long-term initiative like the Women's
 HeartAdvantage will strengthen our fight against heart disease in women."
     According to Means, the Women's HeartAdvantage program is not just an
 awareness campaign to educate women.  It is a campaign to empower women to act
 on behalf of their own health.  This program will help women learn about heart
 disease and its symptoms, teach women how to keep their hearts healthy, and
 help doctors prevent, detect, and treat heart disease and heart attacks in
 women.
     To develop the new model for care, Forsyth Medical Center interviewed
 500 women (ages 40 to 70) from the community about their attitudes and
 awareness about women and heart disease.
     "Our research revealed a real 'disconnect' for women about their risk for
 heart disease," Means said.  "Many of the women surveyed have risk factors
 such as high cholesterol and obesity, yet they don't recognize that these
 risks can directly lead to heart attacks.  In comparison, the first thing a
 woman thinks of when she feels a lump in her breast is cancer."
 
     Key research findings:
     * Eighty-six percent of respondents qualify as being at risk for heart
       disease.  Of those, only 31 percent have been diagnosed or perceive
       themselves to be at risk.
     * The majority of respondents -- 58 percent -- believe that breast cancer
       poses the greatest risk to their health.  In the United States, heart
       disease claims more women's lives every year than the next 16 causes of
       death combined -- and almost twice as many as all forms of cancer.
     * Physicians and their female patients are not initiating conversations
       with each other about heart disease.  Only 37 percent of respondents
       recall receiving information on heart disease from their physician.
       Only 27 percent of respondents have initiated discussion with their
       physician about heart disease risk factors.  About 34 percent of
       respondents have spoken to their families about the signs of a heart
       attack and appropriate actions to take.
     * Women in Forsyth County know what they are supposed to do to combat
       heart disease, but they are not doing it.  Only 10 percent have
       participated in a heart screening, and only 18 percent have completed a
       self-assessment risk profile.
 
     "Our challenge is to get women to act," Means said.  "The problem is that
 women are delaying seeing their physicians or going to a hospital emergency
 department when experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.  In this campaign,
 we're giving women tools to help them be more assertive in seeking rapid and
 appropriate care.  And, we're educating our physicians about their role in
 treating women for this illness."
     FMC's Women's HeartAdvantage program is a collaborative effort of The
 Heart Center of Forsyth, the Sara Lee Center for Women's Health,
 cardiologists, gynecologists, primary care physicians, consumers, businesses
 and strategic partners.
     The hospital will promote the Heart Center's dedicated toll-free phone
 number, (866) 392-3972, staffed by nurses who can conduct heart-risk
 assessments over the phone, provide advice to women on whether to seek medical
 care, and be alert to risk factors.  Consumers can also find information on
 the hospital's web site, www.forsythmedicalcenter.org, or on a national
 consumer-information web site, www.womensheartadvantage.org.  The hospital
 will also distribute literature that explains how women can take control of
 their heart health.
     In addition, cardiologists will be working with primary care physicians
 and gynecologists to encourage them to discuss risk factors and diagnostic
 testing with their patients, especially the need to seek immediate medical
 care when patients have heart symptoms.  The hospital will distribute tool
 kits with materials designed to help physicians talk to their patients about
 heart disease.  The hospital will also offer HER HEART classes, designed to
 help women lower their risk of heart disease.  The classes will focus on
 nutrition, exercise, risk factors, and hormone replacement therapy.  Forsyth
 Medical Center also has a dedicated Chest Pain Clinic for people -- women and
 men -- who think they may be having urgent problems.
 
     The Heart Center of Forsyth is ranked among the top in the Southeast and
 the country for cardiology care.  More than 13,000 patients a year are served
 by programs spanning from education and prevention to screening, diagnosis,
 treatment, rehabilitation, and support.  Procedures include open-heart
 surgery, valve replacement, angioplasty, and many other heart-mending
 treatments.
     Built on the premise there is strength in numbers, VHA is a nationwide
 network of 2,200 leading community-owned health care organizations and their
 affiliated physicians.  Based in Irving, Texas, with 18 local offices across
 the U.S., VHA comprises 27 percent of the nation's community hospitals,
 including many of the nation's largest and most respected institutions.  For
 more information about VHA, go to www.vha.com.
 
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SOURCE Forsyth Medical Center

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