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    Barbra Streisand's Change of Heart

    What the famous singer, actor, and director is doing to change the state of women's heart health.

    Q: Why did you choose to work with Cedars-Sinai's heart center?

    A: Although there are other institutions around the country doing gender-specific work in the area of heart disease, the Women's Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai is among the few places leading the way in this effort. Also, the center is led by the brilliant and accomplished C. Noel Bairey Merz, MD, who has received numerous awards recognizing her as one of the field's leading experts on preventive cardiology, women's heart disease, and mental stress.

    It made sense for me to focus my time and resources at Cedars given that this work was being conducted right in my own backyard at one of the premier hospitals in the country. And the research outcomes conducted by Dr. Merz and her team will help women all over the world.

    Q: Do you have a personal connection to a woman with heart disease?

    A: I have had both close friends and family members impacted by heart disease. Sadly, I think most people have had someone in their lives who has suffered a heart attack and/or has all the risk factors for cardio-vascular disease.

    Q: What's the No. 1 thing you wish women knew about heart health?

    A: I want women to know that their hearts are physiologically different from men's and that heart disease in women doesn't always present the same as heart disease in men. Women need -- and deserve -- heart care specific to female hearts. Women with heart problems need cardiovascular screening, risk assessment, and diagnostic testing designed for women. Otherwise, they can be misdiagnosed, which could lead to disastrous consequences.

    Q: How is heart disease different in women than in men?

    A: Women having a heart attack don't always experience what men usually do -- chest pain associated with exertion. Instead, they may feel chest pressure, indigestion, shortness of breath, or fatigue. For these reasons, the need for gender-specific treatment is obvious and urgent.

    Q: In your opinion, why are more women developing heart disease?

    A: Today, more women are taking on the stresses of juggling household demands, of being wife, mother, and breadwinner. These modern-day strains add to higher blood pressure, lack of physical activity, quick and unhealthy food choices, and weight gain -- all major contributors to heart disease.

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