Empowering women to put their heart health first


Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women — killing more than all forms of cancer combined. Yet, only 55 percent of women realize heart disease is their biggest health threat.

During American Heart Month this February, UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program is shining the spotlight on heart disease. The goal is to raise awareness of women’s No. 1 health risk and encourage all women to take charge of their health.

“Unfortunately, most women do not know that heart disease is their leading killer,” explained Amparo Villablanca, director of the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program. “They also do not know that it is preventable, and we are working to educate women on how to develop heart-healthy lifestyles.”

Throughout February, the program will host a virtual Women’s Heart Care Forum each Friday to share the latest information on heart disease and its prevention, starting with National Wear Red Day on Feb. 4.

Wear red Friday, Feb. 4 and share a photo on social media with: #HeartMonth, #WearRedDay, #UCDavisHealthWearsRed. (Pre-COVID photo)

Established in 1994, the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program is the nation’s first dedicated to female-focused heart disease care, research and education. The pioneering program strives to enhance awareness of the importance of women’s heart health among patients, healthcare providers and policymakers. It does so through a variety of educational tools, seminars, classes and events.

“We want every woman to put their heart health first,” said Villablanca. “By building awareness of the importance of prevention among women of all ages and dispelling the myth that women are immune to heart disease, we can be even more successful in saving lives.”

Heart disease in women is largely under-recognized. Heart disease and heart attacks have been predominantly associated with men. Historically, men have been the subjects of the research done to understand heart disease and stroke, which has been the basis for treatment guidelines and programs. As a result, cardiovascular disease in women is frequently underdiagnosed and undertreated, and many women fail to receive interventions that could save their lives.

Amparo VillablancaWe want every woman to put their heart health first.”Amparo Villablanca

The key to reversing this trend lies in preventing the risk factors that contribute to heart disease and increasing awareness of new therapies which can lower the incidence of the disease.

UC Davis Health cardiovascular specialists encourage all women to do the following to reduce their risks:

  • Know your numbers: Keep your blood pressure under 120/80, cholesterol under 200, body mass index under 25, waist under 35 inches and blood sugar level under 100.
  • Talk with your doctor about managing your heart disease risks but call 911 immediately if you experience signs of a heart attack: chest discomfort or pain, shortness of breath, sweatiness, nausea, dizziness or fatigue, especially with physical or emotional stress.
  • Let go of stress to reduce your risk of heart disease: Find ways to relax every day, such as yoga, meditation, walking or whatever calms you.

And don’t forget to wear red on Friday, Feb 4th. To learn more and see UC Davis’s Red Dress educational collection done by UC Davis fashion design students who create a collection of red dresses to raise awareness that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, visit our website.