App Targets No. 1 Killer of Women


Avichai Assouline

Although heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States—it causes more deaths than all types of cancers combined—many women are underdiagnosed and unaware of their risk.

“Love My Heart,” a new app developed especially for women by two cardiologists who specialize in women’s cardiovascular disease, is designed to raise awareness among women and prevent heart disease. The app was developed by Sonia Tolani, MD, and Natalie A. Bello, MD, assistant professors of medicine.

“Studies show that even when they’re having a heart attack, women don’t go to hospitals as urgently as men, because they’re afraid to be viewed as hypochondriacs,” says Dr. Tolani. “Many women even avoid going to the doctor for a checkup because they are afraid to be judged as overweight.” 

The “Love My Heart” app, Dr. Tolani says, lets women understand their risk level in the privacy of their own home. Using a series of 12 questions, the risk calculator determines a woman’s personal risk of developing heart disease. “Women have different risk factors than men,” says Dr. Tolani. “Diabetes doubles risk of heart disease for men but triples the risk for women, for example. And complications during pregnancy and early menopause also impact risk.”

Based on the individual risk factors, the app helps the user devise a Heart Plan with realistic goals to support healthy weight, healthy diet, exercise, and smoking cessation. Users select goals, such as skipping dessert or getting off the subway a few stops early, and are prompted throughout the day to log their progress. “Exercise doesn’t have to be at the gym,” says Dr. Tolani. “If you put a timer on your watch and do it, it counts. 

“A large number of women—about 80 percent of us—have at least one risk factor for heart disease, but only 16 percent of us have had a discussion with our health care provider about those risks,” Dr. Tolani says. “We hope the app sparks new conversations among women and with their providers.”

The app is available in the Apple app store and will soon be available for Android devices.