Celebs

Barbra Streisand: Spotlighting women's health issues is 'bigger than show business'

Feb. 7, 2014 at 9:33 AM ET

Barbra Streisand isn't just an iconic musician and actress, she's also a philanthropist concerned about women's health issues. And on Friday, a day designated as "red" day to spotlight women's heart health, the notoriously private Streisand spoke with TODAY about why this issue is so important to her. 

"It's about gender inequality," said Streisand. "In the last 50 years, most of the research has been focused on men. ... Ever since 1984, more women have died from heart disease than men."

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 43 million women are affected by heart disease, and it kills one of every three women. 

"Heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined," Streisand noted. 

Shocked by those statistics, the singer took action and raised $22 million (including $10 million of her own fortune) to create The Barbra Streisand Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, which opened in June 2012. One sign of how important it is to her is that she's willing to be the public face on the Center.

"I don't like to go to opening nights," said Streisand, who has begun drawing and painting at home as her latest creative outlet. "I don't even like to have to talk about my work."

But this is a special exception, she noted. "Seeing my name in stainless steel on the building at Cedars-Sinai — I must say I'm just thrilled by it because it's doing something that's bigger than me, bigger than show business. It's hopefully going to save women's lives."

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