Barbara Streisand is a household name, known for her outstanding career as a recording artist, as well as her political activism and philanthropic efforts. A few years ago, the singer and actress used her platform to publicly advocate for awareness and research on a particular illness she has personal experience with.
In 2014, Streisand and billionaire Ron Perelman co-founded the Women’s Heart Alliance. In an interview, Streisand expressed her surprise at the persisting bias in emergency room treatments for heart-related issues, due to the lack of understanding and research on the gender disparities in heart health.
Barbra Streisand is well-known for her commitment to women’s heart health. When the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center opened at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, she pledged to support research into the unique cardiovascular challenges faced by women.
In her own words, the 79-year-old singer explains that her passion for this cause began 15 years ago, when she read an article about gender differences in heart health in The New York Times. Ever since then, Streisand has been a vocal advocate for raising awareness about the issue and increasing funding for research.
When Streisand first learned about the disparities in heart health for women, she was shocked to find that women are not receiving the same level of attention and treatment as men, and that cardiovascular disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.
This realization led Streisand to question the inherent inequality in the healthcare system, as she found it incomprehensible that men and women should not be treated equally. For example, many people are unaware that women are more likely to die within a year of having a heart attack than men.
In her interview, Streisand highlighted that heart illness is often perceived as a “man’s disease,” which has led to a tendency among doctors to be dismissive of women’s complaints of symptoms that could be indicative of heart trouble.
Barbra Streisand highlights in an interview with InStyle magazine that for years, heart illness was thought to be a condition that only affected men, and women with similar or atypical symptoms were often misdiagnosed as having stomach issues or emotional problems.
The legendary singer has a personal connection to the topic of heart health as she lost her mother, Diana, to the condition at the age of 81. This tragic experience only strengthened her resolve to raise awareness about the issue and advocate for better treatments and care for women.
The actress went on to reveal that misconceptions about heart illness were causing many women to die prematurely, as she recounted her mother’s experience with the urgent bypass surgery she had to undergo.
Barbara Streisand explains that heart illness is often misdiagnosed in women because many people are unaware that the symptoms of a heart attack in women can be different from, and more subtle than, those in men. She noted that instead of the dramatic chest pain depicted in Hollywood, the early symptoms of a heart attack in women may include nausea, backaches, acute exhaustion, or shortness of breath.
In an effort to raise awareness and challenge these misconceptions, Streisand has undertaken various initiatives to encourage women to get their hearts examined regularly, especially if they are experiencing symptoms and want to take proactive measures to reduce their risk.
The Women’s Heart Alliance, an organization that Streisand co-founded, led a campaign which referred to heart disease as the “woman killer”, while another campaign aimed at educating young women and women of color about the signs and symptoms of the illness.
Similar to the situation in the United States, there is also a “gender gap” in heart health in the United Kingdom. The British Heart Foundation has also weighed in on the issue, and its Associate Medical Director, Dr. Sonya Babu-Narayan, stated that decades of research have improved the survival rates for heart attacks, but the odds are different for women.
The British Heart Foundation’s own “Bias and Biology” briefing report revealed that women are 50% more likely than men to receive an incorrect initial diagnosis for a heart attack. Furthermore, women are less likely to receive medications to help prevent another heart attack after suffering one.
Recognizing the warning signs of a heart attack is crucial in receiving prompt medical attention. The British Heart Foundation states that while symptoms can vary from person to person, the most common signs include:
Chest pain or discomfort that appears suddenly and persists. This could feel like squeezing, pressure, or tightness. Pain or discomfort in other parts of the body, such as the left or right arm, neck, jaw, back, or stomach, and other symptoms like nausea, sweating, dizziness or shortness of breath.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), one of the main causes of a heart attack is cardiac disease, which is caused by a buildup of fatty substances in the coronary arteries that can obstruct or block the blood flow to the heart.
To begin with, These fatty deposits can cause the walls of the arteries to become furred over time. These deposits are called atheroma and the process is known as atherosclerosis.
To improve overall health and reduce the risk of heart attack and atheroma accumulation, certain lifestyle changes can be adopted. These include:
- maintaining a balanced and healthy diet,
- regularly engaging in physical activity,
- quitting smoking,
- managing blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
As for Barbara Streisand, she has reportedly been working out with the same trainer for over 30 years and places a strong emphasis on her nutrition. She advocates for leading a healthy lifestyle.
“I make sure to include fruits, vegetables, and greens in most of my meals” she said. “I enjoy eating fish and poultry, but occasionally I replace meat with plant-based protein options.”
“I love eating, so it doesn’t take much to get me to stray from my intentions,” she added jokingly.
Additionally, Other benefits of maintaining heart health include reducing the risk of stroke and dementia.
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