By JIM VINES
On Feb. 1 the nation celebrated "National Wear Red Day" to educate women about the risks of heart disease. The Department of Veterans Affairs joins this effort to inform women veterans about this leading cause of death in women veterans. The VA in collaboration with the American Heart Association, is prioritizing heart disease prevention and outreach to women veterans.
Cardiovascular disease frequently affects the fastest growing
demographic in the VA's female patient population, those who served in Vietnam and the Gulf War. Nearly one-third of women veterans under VA care have high cholesterol levels or high blood pressure. To address this issue, the VA has been aggressive in its fight against heart disease in women and has worked to eliminate gender disparities in prevention and treatment of cardiovascular risk factors. Two recent VA
reports show the VA has eliminated significant gender disparities in high blood pressure and diabetes and has reduced the same in other areas.
In addition, a VA cardiovascular workgroup is examining ways to improve women veterans' heart health through education. Healthy Heart events and expos are being held for VA employees throughout the country, many of whom are veterans, and the public. The VA encourages facilities to coordinate similar events locally. Addressing issues like cardiovascular disease head-on ties directly with the VA's focus on personalized, proactive care for VA patients. The VA will continue to exceed expectations in this and other critical issues facing women veterans.
Women serve in all branches of the military, representing 15 percent of today's active duty military and nearly 18 percent of National Guard and Reserve forces. Women are the fastest growing group within the veterans community. Of the 22.7 million living veterans, more than 1.8 million are women. They comprise nearly 8 percent of the total veteran population and more than 6 percent of all veterans who use VA health care services.