While at Mayo Clinic, I learned that until recently, most cardiac research over the past 3-4 decades has been done primarily with (white) male participants, or with women participating in “statistically insignificant numbers”. And it’s often not because big bad researchers are deliberately refusing to include women in their studies. Although women do volunteer for hormone or breast cancer clinical trials – what we call the ‘bikini approach’ to women’s health research – we do not seem as interested in participating in cardiac research.
Many of us still mistakenly believe that heart disease is a man’s problem. At a Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto, researchers announced that women are still under-represented in heart research. Although 53% of heart disease patients are women, we make up only 25-30% of the subjects in most cardiac studies. When I attended another Canadian Cardiovascular Congress conference so I could interview researchers studying women’s heart health, I was shocked to learn that, out of over 700 scientific papers presented at this conference, I could count on one hand those that focused specifically on women.
That doesn’t mean that treatments aren’t approved for female heart patients. But researchers know far less about how heart disease develops in women, how diagnostic tests that were researched and developed in (white, middle-aged) men work or don’t work in women, and how women may react to drugs and other treatments. So when reading research reports, always consider the gender balance in the study methodology.
♥ Please consider participating in the Mayo Clinic studies for survivors of Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD).
♥ FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN CURRENT HEART RESEARCH!
♥ And here’s how to make sense of medical research studies.
- Cardiac Research: Where Did All The Women Go?
- Medical Journalism Watchdog Slams Cardiac Polypill News Hype
- Are Women Being Left Behind in Cardiac Research?
- Doctors On The Take: How To Read The Fine Print in Cardiac Research Reports
- Medical Ghostwriting Scandal: Doctors Sign Names to Drug Company Marketing Lies
- The Ethical Nag: Marketing Ethics for the Easily Swayed
RECENT RESEARCH UPDATES:
♥ Higher Cardiovascular Risk If You’re Taking Calcium Supplements – Dr. Erin Michos of Johns Hopkins University reported that calcium supplements might increase cardiovascular risk, but dietary calcium was associated with a protective effect. Journal of the American Heart Association, October 11, 2016.
♥ Sex Differences in Young Patients with Acute Myocardial Infarction – Researchers in the U.S. and Spain report that young women (under age 55) with AMI represent a distinct, higher-risk population that is different from young male counterparts. This includes lower quality of life, more co-morbidities, higher clinical risk scores, less likely to undergo revascularization procedures like stents during hospitalization, and more delays in seeking emergency medical help. European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care. July 2016.
♥ Gender Differences in Coronary Heart Disease – U.K. cardiologist Dr. Ramzi Y Khamis’ comprehensive look at the areas in cardiovascular disease where women are still either under-diagnosed, under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed, or both – published in the journal HEART from the British Medical Journal (2016). See image below:
♥ “Women’s heart attacks are under-diagnosed and under-treated even when appropriately diagnosed compared to our male counterparts.” (Unofficial translation, thanks to Laura Haywood-Cory: “Sucks to be female. Better luck next life.” First ever scientific statement in 92 years on Women and Heart Attacks from the American Heart Association – official AHA press release (2016)
♥ “42% of women present with NO chest pain during heart attack; higher mortality than men”: Association of Age and Sex With Myocardial Infarction Symptom Presentation and In-Hospital Mortality, Journal of the American Medical Association
♥ Your Diet and Heart Disease: Rethinking Butter, Beef and Bacon: “Available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum (blood) cholesterol” – from the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee
♥ Familial Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection: Evidence for Genetic Susceptibility. Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine (NOTE: lead study author Dr. Sharonne Hayes of Mayo Clinic’s patient-inspired research on SCAD)
♥ Sex Bias in Referral of Women to Cardiac Rehabilitation – European Journal of Preventive Cardiology
♥ Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics: 2015 Update – American Heart Association
♥ Effect of Weight Reduction and Cardiometabolic Risk Factor Management on Symptom Burden and Severity in Patients With Atrial Fibrillation – Journal of the American Medical Association
♥ FDA warns that popular blood pressure drug can cause severe diarrhea (Benicar in the U.S., Olmetec in EU, Canada and Japan) – Cardiobrief
♥ Calcium in food or supplements increases women’s cardiovascular risk and does not prevent bone fractures – British Medical Journal
♥ Pregnancy-Related Complications Predict Cardiovascular Disease in Middle Age – American Heart Association
♥ Structural Changes in Hearts of PreTerm Babies – Circulation
♥ Women Who Quit Smoking Do Live Longer– Lancet
♥ Perceived Stress in Myocardial Infarction: Long-Term Mortality and Health Status Outcomes – Journal of the American College of Cardiology
♥ Taking painkillers increases death risk, second heart attacks in survivors, American Heart Association
♥ Breast cancer irradiation tied to coronary stenosis – Journal of Clinical Oncology
♥ Multaq for atrial fibrillation increases rates of heart failure, stroke, and death in high risk patients – New England Journal of Medicine
♥ Multaq for atrial fibrillation “unsafe for many patients” – Therapeutic Initiatives
♥ EMA recommends restricting anti-arrhythmia drug Multaq – European Medicines Society
♥ Cigarette smoking causes more arterial damage in women than in men – European Society of Cardiology
♥ New research links obesity with atrial fibrillation heart rhythm disorder – University of Adelaide
♥ Cigarette smoking a greater risk for women’s heart health – The Lancet
♥ FDA Approves new anti-clotting bloodthinner for heart attack patients – Wall Street Journal
♥ Stop-smoking drug Chantix/Champix linked to heart risks – Canadian Medical Association Journal
♥ Calcium supplements and heart risk: new fears – British Medical Journal
♥ Common Painkillers Risky For Heart Attack Survivors – Circulation
♥ New guidelines warn of link between pregnancy complications and heart disease – American Heart Association
♥ ICD implants “non-evidence-based” in 22.5% of recipients – Journal of the American Medical Association
♥ Rescue breathing may not be needed for adult CPR – The Lancet
♥ Dental care linked to heart health in older women – Health Economics
♥ Daily coffee consumption reduces stroke risks – MedPage
♥ Religion not associated with better cardiovascular health – Northwestern University
♥ EKG can show false positive results – Henry Ford Hospital
♥ Obesity is poor gauge of detecting high cholesterol in children – University of Michigan
♥ Venous thrombosis risk rises with some birth control pills– Leiden University
♥ Woman gets first wireless-monitor pacemaker implanted – UK Daily Mail
♥ New study endorses heart benefits of fish oil – American College of Cardiology
♥ Cardiac risk factors on the rise in Canada – CMA Journal
♥ No Benefit to Lowering Blood Pressure below 140/90 standard – Cochrane’s
♥ First Stem Cells Injected to Regrow Dead Heart Muscle– Cedars Sinai Heart Institute
♥ White Bread, Cornflakes Could Increase Heart Disease Risks – Journal of the American College of Cardiology
♥ Ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) May Increase Heart Attack Risks – Circulation
♥ Women with Chest Pain Less Likely To Get Optimal Treatment from Paramedics, Women’s Health Matters
♥ Unhappy Marriage Bad for Women’s Heart Health, Heart & Stroke Foundation
♥ No Evidence That Daily Baby Aspirin Prevents Heart Attacks, Oxford University
♥ Genetic Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Attacks, European Society of Human Genetics
♥ Canadian Women In The Dark About Their Health, Women’s College Hospital
♥ Belly Fat in Women: How To Keep It Off, Mayo Clinic
♥ Gender Differences in Diagnosis & Management of Heart Disease, Women’s Heart Foundation
♥ Study Explores Women’s Rare Blood Pressure Condition, Heart & Stroke Foundation
♥ Breast Best for Mom’s Heart: “Women who breastfed at least one baby for 7-12 months are significantly less likely to develop cardiovascular disease”, Obstetrics & Gynecology, May 2009
♥ Women More Likely To Miss or Ignore Heart Attack Warning Signs, Yale School of Medicine.
♥ Misdiagnoses Result in Higher Coronary Heart Disease Mortality Rates in Women Than in Men, Therapeutic Advances in Cardiovascular Disease.
♥ Aspirin Improves Survival in Women with Stable Heart Disease, Women’s Health Initiative
♥ Migraine Raises Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
♥ Menopause Increases Risk of Heart Disease, Canadian Women’s Health Network
♥ Please consider participating in cardiac research about women’s heart disease.