Heart disease took both of Marcia Wolly’s grandmothers, one who was only in her late 60s. “She was on vacation, had a heart attack, went to the hospital and died a few days later,” explains Marcia.

After several cardiac incidents of her own, Marcia came to a realization. “Nobody was paying attention to heart disease in women like they were breast cancer,” she says. “Not to minimize breast cancer, but heart disease kills 10 times more women.”

According to Lori Tam, M.D., Marcia’s experience is common and her insights are correct. “Because women experience heart disease differently than men, it frequently progresses further before it’s diagnosed,” she says. “So when it presents, it can be deadly. Two-thirds of women who die from heart disease have no recognized prior symptoms. Compounding this, only about half of women recognize that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.”

Dr. Tam leads the women’s heart program at Providence Heart Institute. “Some of our goals are clinical to meet women’s unique cardiovascular needs and give them the knowledge and tools to live a heart-healthy life,” she says. “We also know it’s easier to use knowledge and tools if you’re not doing it alone, so our other goals are to provide peer and social support and to continue raising awareness.”

In 2011, Marcia decided to help spread the word about women’s heart disease. A successful business owner and an avid golfer, she launched the Hearts and Clubs Open, a benefit golf and mahjong tournament to raise awareness about the disease and what women can do to prevent it. “We need to educate women about heart disease,” she says, “so they take action before they find themselves in the emergency room.”

The tournament has raised more than $100,000 to support women in cardiac rehabilitation and to give more women access to Dr. Tam’s program. “When I met Dr. Tam, I realized the importance of having an ongoing relationship with a cardiologist who understands women’s heart issues,” she says. “I want to help more women have that kind of relationship. We have saved lives through the Hearts and Clubs Open and that’s why I do it.”

You can join Marcia’s event committee in saving lives and have a great day of playing golf and mahjong at the Hearts and Clubs Open, June 12 at Tualatin Country Club. For more information, email us at welovethat@providence.org.