I’ve been fascinated by studies on why women wait so long to get medical help despite heart attack symptoms ever since the spring of 2008 when I spent way too long before seeking help for my own increasingly debilitating signs. I sometimes replay that two-week experience in my little peabrain, and I ask myself the same question being asked by a team of Harvard researchers in a new study:
“Why do women wait longer than men before seeking help even when they’re in the middle of a frickety-frackin’ heart attack?”
I attended the 64th annual Canadian Cardiovascular Congress not as a participant, but with media accreditation in order to report on the proceedings for my blog readers. I arrived at the gorgeous Vancouver Convention Centre feeling excited to interview as many of the cardiac researchers attending this conference as I could squeeze into my 2-day schedule – particularly all the ones studying women’s heart disease. I was gobsmacked, however, when conference organizers in the Media Centre told me on my first day that, out of hundreds of cardiology papers being presented that year, I’d be able to “count on one hand” the number of those studies that had anything even remotely to do with the subject of women and heart disease. Essentially, that appalling gender gap then became the Big Story of the conference for me. And every one of those four lonely little studies shared a conclusion that I already knew: when it comes to heart disease, women fare worse than men do.* See also: The Sad Reality of Women’s Heart Disease Hits Home.
But already, I can tell that this weekend’s annual Congress (once again back in Vancouver) should do better. This year, the 192-page conference program lists over a dozen studies reporting specifically on women’s experience of heart disease.(1) Sounds good – until you remember that it’s a puny drop in the bucket for an international conference where over 500 original new scientific papers are being presented about a diagnosis that has killed more women than men every year since 1984. Continue reading “How gender bias threatens women’s health”
I was a woman on a mission while covering the proceedings of the 64th Annual Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver. Specifically, my mission was to track down researchers working in the area of women’s heart disease. They were, sadly, few and far between, my heart sisters, as I had to explain here earlier.
“Out of over 700 scientific papers presented at this conference, I could count on one hand the number that focused on women’s heart health.”
Luckily, I did track down Dr. Karin Humphries from the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, and her University of British Columbia doctoral student Mona Izadnegahdar. Their paper found, not surprisingly, that women under age 55 fare worse than their male counterparts after a heart attack.(1)
While chatting with me about their findings, Dr. Humphries and Mona happened to mention the “popular misconception that women and men present with different heart attack symptoms”. Continue reading “Researchers openly mock the ‘myth’ of women’s unique heart attack symptoms”
I’m nicely settled back home now after a few days across the pond in beautiful Vancouver, where I was covering the 64th Annual Canadian Cardiovascular Congress there for Heart Sisters readers.
My favourite things about this trip: the weather, walking the Vancouver sea wall, the mountains, the divine heart-smart food, the fabulously helpful Heart and Stroke Foundation staff at the Media Centre, and the fact that I somehow managed to p-a-c-e myself most days while trying to take care of my heart.
My least favourite thing: out of over 700 scientific papers presented at this conference, I could count on one hand those that focused even remotely on women’s heart disease. My question is: why? Continue reading “The sad reality of women’s heart disease hits home”