DANVILLE — Geisinger Health System and Yale School of Medicine investigators are researching how young people recover from heart attacks through VIRGO (Variation in Recovery: Role of Gender on Outcomes in Young AMI Patients), a research project funded by the National, Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

"Young women with heart attacks have about twice the risk of dying in the hospital than men of the same age," said local principal investigator Kimberly Skelding, M.D., an interventional cardiologist who is director of Geisinger's Women's Heart and Vascular Health Program and Director of Cardiovascular Genomics and Cardiovascular Research at the Henry Hood Center for Health Research. "Currently, we have little information about what accounts for the higher risk of young women with heart disease or how best to address it."

VIRGO provides an unprecedented opportunity to identify factors that influence the survival and health of young women who suffer heart attacks.

"I cringe at the thought that these young people are being treated without the benefit of much research to guide decisions. That is what we hope to change, and at least this project is a start in the right direction," said Harlan Krumholz, M.D., principal investigator, the Harold H. Hines Jr. Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine.

The research project will enroll 2,000 young women and 1,000 young men in this multicenter project through June 2011.

"We are grateful for the tremendous support and commitment from Geisinger Health System and other participating VIRGO sites for making this important research project possible," said Yale School of Public Health Associate Professor Judith Lichtman, Co-Principal Investigator of the study.

VIRGO is working closely with the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women, a nationwide movement to raise awareness of heart disease as the No. 1 killer of women and empower women to reduce their risk by learning about prevention. The study welcomed its 1,000th participant in November 2009 with the help of more than 95 collaborating hospitals across the United States. "As the largest, most comprehensive investigation of young women with heart attacks, VIRGO will identify key determinants of recovery and discover knowledge that will assist in improving care in this population," said Dr. Skelding. "Together, we can bring a voice to this silent killer to help save lives."

For more information about VIRGO, visit www.virgostudy.org. For more information about Go Red For Women, visit goredforwomen.org.

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