0316-News-research network_Blog

The scientific teams that will lead a new research network focused on preventing, treating and beating heart disease and stroke in women have been selected, the American Heart Association announced Wednesday.

The need for these focused research centers is critical, AHA officials said, because an estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease and stroke. Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing these diseases.

The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women Research Network will house five research centers that will make up the newest American Heart Association Strategically Focused Research Networks. Each research institution is focused on a specific area of heart disease and/or stroke, and the institutions will also undertake collaborative research to increase the network’s productivity.

Among them, the Sarah Ross Soter Center for Women’s Cardiovascular Research at New York University Medical Center will focus on heart attacks in women and their relation to potentially treatable stress. Soter, who selected the center from the group as the one to bear her name and is funding it along with her husband Bill, is excited about its potential.

Sarah Ross "Sally" Soter

Sally Soter

“Perhaps what they discover about stress will be able to help the many women who have not yet had a heart attack,” said Soter, a longtime donor. “I have always wanted to make the information available about heart disease to everyone. If some little part of this research will help women, I will be so pleased. I look forward to seeing what happens.”

Currently the link between stress and heart disease isn’t clear. Women who’ve had a heart attack often face high stress levels, according to the NYU researchers, but the best techniques for managing it are unknown. The Soter Center will also study differences in heart attacks between women and men.

The other four centers focused on cardiovascular diseases in women are:

    • Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation, Pittsburgh: Researchers will examine which pregnancy-related signals identify women at highest risk for future cardiovascular disease and guide novel interventions to help them.
    • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore: Studies will help identify at-risk heart-failure patients and the prevention strategies to help them. There are no proven effective therapies to prevent or treat heart failure with preserved ejection fraction, and it’s arguably one of the most significant unmet needs in cardiovascular medicine, researchers say.
    • Columbia University Medical Center, New York: Researchers will develop evidence for prevention and screening guidelines and help educate women about how poor sleep can hurt the heart. Although poor sleep patterns can cause health problems, researchers say the current data hasn’t led to recognizing sleep as a risk factor for heart disease.
    • University of California, San Diego: This study will add to the growing evidence of the relationship between sedentary behavior and cardiovascular risk factors for Latina women, who face a disproportionately high risk of heart disease. Effective educational programs are needed because even though the public thinks “sitting is the new smoking,” researchers said, they don’t know how to correct the problem.

“Identifying the centers is an exciting and important step in our ongoing effort to combat this deadly disease for women everywhere,” said AHA Chief Executive Officer Nancy Brown. “Research saves lives, and we are confident that this focused effort on women’s heart health will have a significant impact on the lives of millions of our daughters, mothers, grandmothers and friends.”

Last year the Soters donated $5 million toward the Go Red For Women Research Network, including $1 million to support collaborative projects that emerge from the interactions among the centers.

The Go Red For Women Research Network is one of several networks funded by the AHA. Other Strategically Focused Research Networks study prevention, hypertension and disparities. The association will launch a new network in heart failure this year, and obesity and children networks in 2017.