Imagine for a moment, you’re someone with a family history of heart disease or you are exhibiting signs of heart disease. Imagine, you speak with your doctor about your concerns and they advise you to undergo a stress echocardiogram, which is a procedure to determine how well your heart and blood vessels are working. You arrive at your appointment, and the cardiology technician asks you to remove the clothing necessary to attach the machine’s wires to your chest. Once secured, the technician instructs you to hop on the treadmill just as you are, without redressing. Here, you are expected to run as fast as you can, on an incline, in front of medical staff while they take your blood pressure intermittently, check your electrocardiogram, and observe you during exercise.
Now, if you’re imagining this scenario from the point of view of a man – or a person without breasts – you may not recognize a problem at this stage in the test. If you’re a woman – or a person who does have breasts – you’ve likely been hit with a wave of embarrassment, discomfort, pain, and possibly even shame. None of these emotional reactions will help you exercise or push yourself to a diagnostically interpretable study.
This is the reality for thousands of people who take the Standard Stress Echocardiogram or Stress Test each year. It was also the reality for Heartlanta Bra co-founder and actress Jennifer Beals.
What Is Wrong With the Standard Stress Echocardiogram?
Historically, the field of cardiology has been male-dominated. Unfortunately, this imbalance has led to gender bias impacting both the treatment of and screening for heart disease. Although it is a potentially life-changing diagnostic test, it was not designed with breasts in mind. The test is almost exclusively conducted only wearing an open hospital gown on the upper half of the body, because conventional clothing interferes with the electrodes and ultrasound imaging. Although unintentional, the test puts women and those with breasts in both a physically and emotionally painful position; one that men generally do not endure.
For a person with breasts, running on a treadmill in front of other people, without the securement of a bra can not only be a humiliating task but also one that may cause physical discomfort from the aggressive movement of the breast tissue, as well as from friction caused by the attached electrodes. These and other issues have likely resulted in up to 20-25% of false positive results. The dedicated team at Heartlanta Bra is working hard to set a new standard for diagnosing heart disease in women and those with breasts.
How Does the Heartlanta Bra Work?
Specifically designed to be compatible with the stress echocardiogram test, the Heartlanta Bra lifts breast tissue away from electrodes and provides easy access for ultrasound imaging utilizing a hook-and-loop closure center. The patented bra’s nylon grade material is said to feel similar to that of a swimsuit top, ensuring modesty and reducing discomfort for the wearer by supporting breast tissue – all while providing accurate results. The Heartlanta Bra is also size inclusive; each bra can fit up to eight cup sizes. It is far more than a sports bra; the Heartlanta Bra was specifically designed to optimize a patient’s experience during the stress test and imaging with echocardiography.
Why is Heartlanta Bra Important?
According to the Chronic Disease Research Group (CDRG) as well as the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease (cardiovascular disease) is the preeminent cause of sickness and death in the United States. Although awareness of the condition is on the rise, many are still unaware that heart disease is the number one cause of death in women across the U.S.
When it comes to heart disease, prevention and early detection are critical. Unfortunately, a lack of awareness, alongside the discomfort and embarrassment around taking a standard stress echocardiogram, prevents women and those with breasts from receiving optimal care. The Heartlanta Bra company was created in an effort to improve the stress echo screening experience, advocate for women’s heart health, and empower women across the globe.
What Has Been The Response to the Heartlanta Bra?
In an interview with Veronica Beard, Beals shares that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “Every cardiologist who has shared Heartlanta with their patients has told us how grateful their patients were,” says Beals. “Heartlanta doesn’t interfere with the medical technician’s work and it allows women to feel more physically and mentally comfortable in what is a stressful situation.”
Developed in collaboration with OB/GYN and women’s health expert Dr. Sherry Ross, actor and activist Jennifer Beals, and a leading team of cardiologists, the Heartlanta Bra is providing opportunities for people to learn more about their own bodies, and empowering them to take necessary steps towards a healthier life.
For more information about the Heartlanta Bra, visit their website, here.
Disclosure: I am a shareholder in and unpaid advisor to the Heartlanta Bra company. I have worked with Dr. Ross and Ms. Beals for several years focusing on medical, regulatory and business matters.