February was American Heart Month, the perfect time to advocate for the cardiovascular health of women. Led by Dr. Paula Miller, clinical associate professor in the division of cardiology in UNC’s department of medicine, the 4th annual Women’s Heart Symposium drew nearly 100 women for a day of free education, food and health tips, enabling women of all ages and backgrounds to learn about heart disease and how to prevent it. The event was made possible by private donations.

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Dr. Paula Miller and Barbara Reid-Mills
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Sylvia Hatchell was keynote speaker.

No one knows a woman’s heart like the cardiologists at UNC’s Center for Heart and Vascular Care. Heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men and it’s more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While one in 31 women die from breast cancer each year, heart disease claims the lives of one in three.

“We want to encourage women to be more aware of their heart health as we focus on early-detection, prevention, risk assessment, lifestyle management and raising awareness,” said Miller who is also medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and director of UNC’s Women’s Heart Program at the UNC School of Medicine.

Symposium topics informed women of the causes of heart disease and treatment. Cardiovascular disease and stroke impact women differently across race and ethnicity while cultural, educational and economic disparities further complicate prevention efforts.

Ambassadors for Women’s Cardiovascular Health

“Our hope is that participants take away not only the importance of educating themselves, but the need to help educate all women,” said Miller. “We want them to share the information they learn with daughters, granddaughters, co-workers and neighbors. Cardiovascular disease is preventable.”

Participant Pat Flynn left inspired to focus on her own health. With heart disease effecting both sides of her family–her younger brother died from a heart attack in Yosemite National Park at age 40–she realized the vital missing element in her own heath regimen is exercise.

“Dr. Weickert’s presentation was especially important to me. I felt very pampered and well taken care of,” said Flynn. “It was a day where I could put luxurious attention on myself. The whole experience was such a gift.”

UNC’s head women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell was keynote speaker and the events offered, free to all participants, a heart healthy lunch meal and snacks, plus nutrition and fitness recommendations.

As director of the UNC Women’s Heart Program, Dr. Miller is focused on preventing cardiac symptoms and illness. She provides cardiovascular fitness counseling, while providing stress and general echocardiography services. She has received numerous accolades and awards for her work to fight women’s heart disease.

Donations to this annual outreach symposium can be made by contacting Brian Frerking at frerking@email.unc.edu or Dr. Paula Miller at paula_miller@med.unc.edu.