For the past several years, Barbra Streisand has championed women’s heart health issues. Last week Streisand spoke at a charity luncheon in New York City to raise awareness of heart disease in women.
The legendary actress-singer addressed an audience on September 20 at the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan. “I can’t bear the inequality that exists when it comes to women,” Streisand told the crowd. “Women’s heart disease is no different. Surveys show that a very small percentage of research dollars spent in the United States focuses on the treatment of women with heart disease.”
Streisand, who is in New York City preparing for two upcoming sold out concerts at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn next month, was joined by her close friend, fashioner designer Donna Karan, as well as actresses Catherine Zeta-Jones and Debra Messing, news anchor Gayle King,TV personality Star Jones, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. She urged everyone to help the fight to improve the diagnosis and treatment of female heart disease patients.
Ronald O. Perelman, an organizer of the luncheon, is the main benefactor of the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital where Streisand took a tour prior to the event at the Four Seasons. During the lunch, it was announced that Perelman had just donated $1 million to the Streisand Center, a gift that organizers later said had been matched by Ralph Lauren, Sumner Redstone, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg.
In 2008, the Barbra Streisand Foundation gifted a $5 million endowment to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to create the Barbra Streisand Women’s Cardiovascular Research and Education Program at the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center.Streisand has a long association with Cedars-Sinai, having supported a regenerative medicine research fund in 2007, then underwriting The Barbra Streisand Women’s Cardiovascular Research and Education Program in 2008. In 2011, she received the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Humanitarian Award for her efforts on behalf of women’s heart health and her many other charitable endeavors.
According to the Cedars-Sinai Web Site, two out of every three women have at least one of the risk factors for heart disease. These risk factors are identified as: age over 55 years; family history of premature heart disease; cigarette smoking; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; obesity; and diabetes.
Streisand was “absolutely shocked” when she read the grim statistics of heart disease. It claims the lives of a half million women a year in the United States. At least 40 percent of women do not survive their first heart attack.“In the past, it was thought of as an older man’s disease,” Streisand said, adding that there had been comparatively less research done on its effect on women and how the symptoms are often much different than the classic chest pains felt by men. “That had to change,” she said. “I have always been outspoken on issues of equality,” she added. “And gender does matter when it comes to medical science.”
Streisand’s involvement in this issue may have been predestined. A 1991 editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine first described the lack of understanding of women’s heart disease as the “Yentl syndrome,” a reference to one of Streisand’s most famous films in which she plays a young Jewish woman who disguises herself as a boy to attend school.
Streisand had a minor health issue last year that the National Enquirer blew out of proportion when they reported on their cover, “Streisand Cancer Bombshell – Her Nightmare After Colon Surgery.” It turned out that Streisand did not have cancer but just a routine procedure to remove polyps. She can next be seen on-screen playing Seth Rogen’s mother in the comedy The Guilt Trip, scheduled to hit theaters on Christmas day.