TODAY   |  February 07, 2014

Barbra Streisand speaks out on heart disease

The singer sits down with TODAY’s Natalie Morales to discuss how she’s speaking up for millions of women affected by heart disease. “For me it’s about gender inequality,” she says, adding that research has been focused on men.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> you probably noticed, today is national wear red day . and barbara streisand has dedicated herself to this cause. natalie recently caught up with her.

>> and as you know, barbara believes with high profile comes the privilege with being able to speak out about inequality. she was staggered by the lopsided statistics when it comes to women and heart disease . she's spent a great deal of time and her own money trying to level that playing field .

>> for me, it's about gender inequality . 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 , an estimated 43 million american women are affected by heart disease . and it will claim 1 out of every 3 women 's lives.

>> heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined.

>> in 2007 , streisand picked up the phone and decided to do something about it.

>> you and i spoke for almost two hours. you had a million questions.

>> does that surprise you now knowing her?

>> perpetual student.

>> several years later, the barbara streisand heart center was born in los angeles . the director in charge of putting more than $22 million personally donated and raised by streisand to good use.

>> women were typically falsely reassured that everything was fine.

>> and we're going to take a quick listen.

>> when ruth suffered a heart attack at age 53, doctors were unable to determine the cause.

>> it was a little surprising that there really are some significant differences between men and women .

>> thanks to specialized mri technology, problems can be detected in the heart's tiny arteries where women experience the most damage.

>> they were relieved to find my heart problem .

>> streisand says it's stories like that that make it all worth it.

>> you're a relatively private person and you don't tend to go out and speak publicly about every issue.

>> i don't like to go to opening nights. i don't like to -- i don't like to have to talk about my work.

>> so was it hard for you to attach your name to this cause and to know that you would become the face of this center?

>> it is hard. i don't particularly like to perform in public. what are you doing --

>> streisand has recently discovered a new artistic talent, drawing and painting.

>> you have such a natural ability to capture facial expressions.

>> i don't know. i've just started really. this is, of course, sammy. good girl, sam.

>> this is your baby.

>> my daughter. i love drawing her.

>> amazing.

>> are you afraid of critics and seeing your --

>> no. this is a great thing. not like being in the theater where you get the critique from the audience at the moment. this is like making movies to me. you put out your work. you are not the work. the work stands by itself.

>> barbara streisand 's legendary career has brought her great fortune. and she says nothing brings her more joy than sharing it with others.

>> when i was a little girl and i wanted to be famous, and i wanted to see my name in lights on a marquee in a theater. but seeing my name in stainless steel on cedar sinai, i'm thrilled by it. it's doing something that's bigger than me, bigger than show business . it's hopefully going to save women 's lives.

>> you can see, barbara streisand very passionate about this cause. she wants there to be as much awareness as we do have about breast cancer .

>> good work.

>> she's awesome. and how cool to be in her house.

>> and amazing how well she paints to pick that up six months ago.

>> anything she can't do?