National Alliance reveals shocking truths about the world’s leading killer of women

OTTAWA, Oct. 21, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the country’s leading cause of premature death in women. The Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance (CWHHA), a national network of women’s heart health experts and advocates powered by the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre (CWHHC) at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute (UOHI), released eye-opening research this week revealing the scope of the problem.

The Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance ATLAS on the Epidemiology, Diagnosis, and Management of Cardiovascular Disease in Women – Chapter 2: Scope of the Problem is published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology Open. It is the second chapter in a series of nine to be published chronologically within the year.

“The Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance ATLAS aims to guide clinicians and the public in recognizing the unique aspects of women’s heart health care while providing policy makers with information they need to ensure equitable care for women with CVDs,” says Dr. Colleen Norris, a professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta and scientific director of the Cardiovascular Health & Stroke Strategic Clinical Network with Alberta Health Services. Dr. Norris chairs the CWHHA’s Health Systems and Policy Working Group and is the paper’s senior author. “Most people are unaware that cardiovascular conditions are a woman’s main health threat, leading to more hospitalizations and deaths every year than other health conditions. In Chapter 2 of the ATLAS, we summarize the impacts of CVDs among Canadian women, we highlight sex and gender gaps in research and treatment, and, we look at how being female overlaps with other factors that affect CVD outcomes in women, including Indigenous identity, ethnicity, disability, and socioeconomic status.”

Some of the key findings are highlighted below:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD), including myocardial infarction (heart attack), and followed by stroke, are accountable for most CVD-related deaths in women.

  • Most emergency department visits and hospitalizations by women are due to CAD, heart failure, and stroke.

  • Indigenous women in Canada experience increased CVD, linked to colonization and subsequent social, economic and political challenges.

  • Women from racial and ethnic backgrounds (i.e., South Asian, Afro-Caribbean, Hispanic, and Chinese North-American women) have greater CVD risk factors, and CVD risk in East Asian women increases with duration of stay in Canada.

  • Canadians living in northern, rural, remote and on-reserve residences experience greater CVD morbidity, mortality and risk factors.

  • Increase in CVD risk among Canadian women has been linked with lower socioeconomic status background and women with disabilities have an increased risk of adverse cardiac events.

“In the year 2020, women continue to be under-aware, under-researched, under-diagnosed, and under-treated when it comes to cardiovascular conditions,” says Dr. Thais Coutinho, head of the Division of Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, chair of the CWHHC, and chair of the CWHHA’s Executive Steering Committee. “The Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance ATLAS is the most comprehensive review of its kind, summarizing the state of women’s heart health in Canada. Chapter 2 forms the foundation of information required by policy-makers, clinicians, and the public to ensure better research, greater advocacy, faster diagnosis, better prevention and treatment, and improved quality of life for women with CVD.”

The release of ATLAS Chapter 2 falls ahead of this year’s Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, running virtually from October 21 through to October 24. At this year’s congress, Dr. Coutinho will co-chair a workshop (#HerHeartMatters2020: Women’s Cardiovascular Health: Identifying and Managing Sex-Specific Risk and Disease) in which Alliance members will discuss practical and clinically applicable topics that highlight specific risk periods in a woman’s lifespan and their associated female-specific risk factors.

To close the workshop, the ATLAS’ leads, Dr. Colleen Norris and Dr. Sharon Mulvagh, co-director of the Women’s Heart Health Clinic at Queen Elizabeth II’s Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, NS, and chair of the CWHHA’s Knowledge Translation and Mobilization Working Group, will share details about their work and the role of ATLAS Chapter 2 as a foundational piece to motivate policy and practice changes in Canada and beyond.


The Canadian Women’s Heart Health Alliance is a volunteer organization of over 65 health professionals and patients that was established in 2018 to address the gaps in cardiovascular care for women and improve their cardiovascular health across the lifespan. Patients, clinicians, researchers, trainees and policymakers work collaboratively to move knowledge to action, to transform clinical practice, and to impact public policy in the field of women’s cardiovascular health. Ongoing coordination of the Alliance is provided by the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.


The Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre is dedicated to sparking the social change needed to close the gaps and ensure women are as well-informed and well-cared for as men. Our vision is to provide leadership in the development, implementation and evaluation of cardiovascular prevention and management strategies to improve women’s heart health. Our goal is to improve the prevention, detection, and management of heart disease in Canadian women.


The University of Ottawa Heart Institute has flourished into one of Canada’s most distinguished heart health centres for the unparalleled care it provides to its patients, a world-renowned research institute that brings science from bench to bedside, and the country’s main influencer when it comes to preventing heart disease. Its promise remains the very pillar on which it was built: Always putting patients first.

To conduct an interview with the authors of the paper or spokespersons from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, media are invited to contact the liaison named below.


Leigh B. Morris
Communications Officer
University of Ottawa Heart Institute
613-316-6409 (cell)
[email protected]

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