Tuesday, July 12, 2016 

Leading Journal Explores Critical Role of Nurses in Reducing Cardiovascular-Related Mortality 

Washington, DC – July 12, 2016 – Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for women in the United States. While overall mortality rates associated with heart disease have declined in recent years, the rates for younger women (ages 35-50) are on the rise. Nurses and women’s healthcare clinicians can use pregnancy as a stress test to help identify women who have early risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease and to intervene to promote women’s health.

The May/June 2016 issue of Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN) from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) features a series of articles in which the authors explore health implications surrounding cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women and how nurses and other clinicians can help women understand their risk and symptoms. The authors review new guidelines to improve care for women, the results of new studies on emerging risk factors, and new approaches for reducing CVD in women.

Nurses have the opportunity to improve women’s health outcomes by recognizing early risk factors for CVD during the childbearing years. CVD precursors such as hypertension and gestational diabetes can manifest during pregnancy and should prompt further screening, monitoring, and lifestyle interventions. Less than 24% of women in the United States age 20 or older meet all of the criteria for ideal cardiovascular health. Nearly 400,000 CVD-related deaths occur annually in women in the United States, which equals almost one per minute. The challenge in combating CVD is that women’s cardiac symptoms can present themselves differently than commonly understood signs in men.  Other factors specific to pregnancy may have a significant effect on women’s health and contribute to the development of CVD-related complications. Nurses play a critical role in recognizing early risk factors for CVD in women during the childbearing years.

In “Pregnancy Reveals Evolving Risk for Cardiometabolic Disease in Women,” authors Erin P. Ferranti, PhD, MPH, RN; Emily J. Jones, PhD, RNC-OB; and Teri L. Hernandez, PhD, RN, explore the topic of pregnancy as a stress test for cardiovascular risk in women and describe new evidence that certain conditions specific to pregnancy, including hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, gestational diabetes, and preterm birth, are risk factors for CVD. Their research provides approaches and guidelines for maternal follow-up care practices that nurses can use to educate women about their risk of developing CVD. The authors suggest that the childbearing years represent an optimal time for nurses to identify women at risk and to intervene to promote cardiovascular health.

In “Guidelines for the Reduction of Cardiovascular Disease in Women,” authors Gina P. Lundberg, MD, FACC; Sandra B. Dunbar, RN, PhD, FAAN, FAHA, FPCNA; and Nanette K. Wenger, MD, FACC, MACP, FAHA, review recent guidelines on the prevention of CVD that include management of cholesterol and hypertension and lifestyle modification. By identifying risk factors in women early on, nurses can provide guidance and education to women on how to reduce their risk of CVD by making lifestyle changes during and after pregnancy, such as improved diet, increased nutrient intake, and physical activity.

“While significant advances in cardiovascular care have been made in recent years, more work needs to be done to establish optimal times and frequency for assessing risk factors in childbearing women,” said AWHONN CEO, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN.  “I’m confident that this groundbreaking work will lead the way in further refinement of best practices and promotion of improved women’s health outcomes.”

For media interviews, contact:
Kelly Mack for AWHONN


The Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN), is an internationally ranked scientific and technical journal published bimonthly by the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.  JOGNN is online at jognn.org

Since 1969, the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has been the foremost authority promoting the health of women and newborns and strengthening the nursing profession through the delivery of superior advocacy, research, education, and other professional and clinical resources. AWHONN represents the interests of 350,000 registered nurses working in women’s health, obstetric, and neonatal nursing across the United States. Learn more about AWHONN at www.awhonn.org.