Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, on Wednesday reintroduced the Heart Disease Education, Analysis, Research and Treatment (HEART) for Women Act, which would strengthen the nation’s fight against heart disease in women.

This legislation passed the House of Representatives in the 110th and 111th Congresses with near-unanimous support. Expansion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s WISEWOMAN Screening program, the primary component of the HEART for Women Act, was also included in the original House-passed health-care reform legislation.

The HEART for Women Act would expand eligibility for funding to all 50 states for the CDC’s WISEWOMAN screening program for low-income and uninsured women. Currently, the program is available in only 20 states.

The bill would also educate both women and health-care providers about the prevention and diagnosis of heart disease in women and the most effective treatments available. It would also tighten Food and Drug Administration requirements for reporting sex- and race-based data about new medicines and devices, ensuring that future treatments are suitable for all patients in need.

“While we have made great progress in the fight against heart disease, it remains the No. 1 killer of American women, needlessly claiming the lives of far too many of our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. Unfortunately not enough people — including health professionals — recognize that heart disease poses such a serious and unique threat to women. Far too many women pay a terrible price for that lack of knowledge,” Capps said. “My legislation addresses this critical health issue by ensuring more women have access to screening for heart disease, filling the critical knowledge gaps by ensuring that health-care professionals are informed about the risks of cardiovascular disease in women, and supporting increased data collection to identify new treatments for women.”

“I had the honor of testifying before Congress in 2007 to encourage passage of this crucial women’s health legislation,” Santa Barbara County Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf said. “As a 2004 heart attack survivor, I know full well the importance of quality health care, prevention and research to ensure a healthy and fulfilling life. I am very pleased that Congresswoman Capps is reintroducing this vital legislation, and I urge its passage.”

Cardiovascular disease claims the lives of 455,000 women each year, or about one death each minute. It kills more women than the next five causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer.  Even though more women than men die from heart disease each year, 43 percent of women are unaware that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, according to an American Heart Association survey. And 90 percent of primary care physicians are also unaware that heart disease kills more women than men each year.

Additionally, the cost of cardiovascular disease, along with numerous other chronic conditions, is an ever-increasing burden on the nation’s health-care system and economy. The American Heart Association estimates that cardiovascular disease cost more than $300 billion in 2010 alone through health-care services, prescription drugs and lost worker productivity. Passage of the HEART for Women Act would help combat the rising costs of cardiovascular disease by increasing access to screening and educating women about how they can more effectively manage heart disease.

“As a nation, we simply cannot get the growth of health-care spending under control unless we tackle pervasive chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease,” Capps said. “That’s why it’s so important that we expand access to screening and make sure women across the country are equipped with the knowledge they need to prevent and manage cardiovascular disease.”

The HEART for Women Act is endorsed by a number of leading health and women’s organizations, including the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, WomenHeart and the Society for Women’s Health Research. Click here for more information.

— Ashley Schapitl is press secretary for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.