Yentl Syndrome: cardiology’s gender gap is alive and well

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

There’s a big fat yawning gap between cardiovascular diagnostic tests and resulting medical treatments – depending on whether doctors are looking at a male or a female patient lying there on the gurney. I’ve been saying this out loud ever since I came home from Mayo Clinic, where I first learned about the gender gap from Mayo cardiologists following my own heart attack misdiagnosis.

When asked if we might need to develop a new set of diagnostic/treatment protocol guidelines to specifically address this gap, Dr. Sharonne Hayes (founder of the Mayo Women’s Heart Clinic) responded:

“Part of the problem now is that the clinical practice guidelines are less likely to be applied to women compared to men.

“We know that when hospitals have systems in place to ensure they do provide care according to the guidelines, women’s outcomes improve.”

You may be wondering what it will take to put into place systems and guidelines (already used in male patients) for all patients, including women – in order to finally close that gender gap for good.  Continue reading “Yentl Syndrome: cardiology’s gender gap is alive and well”

Women under age 55 fare worse after heart attack than men

by Carolyn Thomas

There was more distressing news for women from researchers reporting at the 64th Annual Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Vancouver. To the surprise of no one who’s been following women’s heart health lately, a Heart and Stroke Foundation study has found that women under age 55 fare worse than their male counterparts following a heart attack, and their health status declines more than that of their male counterparts.  Continue reading “Women under age 55 fare worse after heart attack than men”

How a woman’s heart is different from a man’s

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

In many ways, the fact that my cardiac treadmill stress test results appeared “normal” was not a surprise, despite my textbook heart attack symptoms of crushing chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain radiating down my left arm. What we now know is that single-vessel heart disease, which is more common in women than in men, may be less likely to be picked up at all on a treadmill test.

Even though my left anterior descending coronary artery was 95% blocked, this didn’t show up. Similarly, for other women non-obstructive heart disease (again, more common in women) is harder to identify given our existing diagnostics. Women are more likely to suffer from coronary microvascular disease affecting the smallest blood vessels of the heart. And spasm conditions like Prinzmetal’s variant angina are difficult to catch at the best of times, but women can be just as dead after a heart attack caused by undiagnosed Prinzmetal’s as they would be due to fully-occluded coronary arteries.   Continue reading “How a woman’s heart is different from a man’s”

Women heart attack survivors know their place


by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

American broadcast journalist Barbara Walters once did a story on gender roles in Kabul, Afghanistan several years before the Afghan conflict. She noted that women customarily walked five paces behind their husbands.

Years later, she later returned to Kabul and observed that women still walk behind their husbands.

From Barbara’s vantage point, the women walked even further back behind their husbands, and seemed to appear happy to maintain the old custom.

She approached one of the Afghani women and asked: “Why do you continue with an old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?”  

The woman looked Barbara straight in the eyes, and without hesitation said: 

“Land mines!”

We don’t walk five paces behind our men here in North America, but when it comes to taking care of ourselves after a catastrophic health crisis like a heart attack, we might as well be.

Continue reading “Women heart attack survivors know their place”