The University of Kentucky’s ninth annual Healthy Hearts for Women Symposium will bring in nationally recognized experts to raise awareness about the dangers of heart disease and educate attendees on prevention techniques.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death. Approximately one person dies every 34 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease, according to the CDC.

The Healthy Hearts for Women symposium, held in person this year, is sponsored by the UK College of Medicine Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, Saha Cardiovascular Research Center, and Women in Medicine and Science (WIMS). The event will take place Friday, Feb. 3. Click here for information on the schedule for the day, how to register, and to add the event to your calendar.

Pharmacology and nutritional sciences faculty Yasir Alsiraj, PhD; Sanda Despa, PhD; and Analia Loria, PhD collectively shared the importance of understanding heart health and what motivated them to organize the event each year.

Q: Why is heart health so important for people to pay attention to, particularly women?

A: Cardiovascular diseases are the No. 1 killer amongst women of all ages. Besides common risk factors that are shared between women and men, like smoking, hyperlipidemia, and obesity, women have female-specific risk factors that have great impact on the cardiovascular system, like gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, menopause, and polycystic ovary syndrome.

Yet, most of the clinical and preclinical research heavily relies on male subjects, male cells, and male animals. Women show different signs of heart attack compared to men, and in many cases, they are not aware they are undergoing a cardiac attack. The misperception that women are more protected than men against cardiovascular diseases often leads to the underestimation of the risk of cardiovascular events in women, resulting in less aggressive treatment and worse outcomes in women. This is reflected in the American Heart Association statistics showing that 26 percent of women will die within a year of a heart attack compared with just 19 percent of men.

Q: Why are you involved with organizing Healthy Hearts for Women?

A: We are scientists at UK that study sex differences in cardiovascular diseases, and we are always driven by the curiosity and the power of “why.” We are fascinated by how males and females are different in their susceptibility to the development of cardiovascular diseases and the nature of the disease progression between the two sexes. For example, while the incidence of cardiovascular disease in premenopausal women is less prevalent than in men, women have a higher mortality rate and poorer outcomes following an acute cardiovascular event. It is an excellent opportunity for UK to echo the Wear Red Day celebration nationwide and raise awareness of the great cardiovascular risk and heart disease rates affecting women.

Q: What do you hope attendees get out of the event?

A: We are ambitious to bring outstanding scientists and clinicians from different institutions to UK to raise awareness about sex differences in cardiovascular diseases while showcasing updates on new, female-specific approaches and therapies against cardiovascular diseases. Most heart attack cases could be prevented by lifestyle changes and a better understanding of the risk factors.