Women with Heart Disease Face Clinical Bias
A lack of discussion about heart disease is an ongoing problem, says Wendy Wray, director of the Women’s Healthy Heart Initiative, a nurse-led clinic at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal that provides individualized care for women. “Research shows that when GPs see men and women with the same risk factors for heart disease, they’re more likely to talk to men about symptoms and reducing their risk than they are to women.”
The fact that women don’t know their risks or recognize their symptoms has a lot to do with a gender gap surrounding heart disease, says Lisa McDonnell, the program manager for the Canadian Women’s Heart Health Centre in Ottawa. This inequality may be the reason why women have much poorer outcomes and are 47 per cent more likely than men to die in the five years following a heart attack. Even worse, the American Heart Association states that one in three women die of heart disease each year.
McDonnell says that a combination of biology—women’s reproductive cycles can affect study results—and clinical bias means that heart disease in women is under-researched, and therefore underdiagnosed and undertreated. “These sex-based inequities have been attributed to a lack of public and professional awareness of women’s coronary risk; knowledge gaps regarding symptom presentation; suboptimal screening and diagnostic approaches; and disparities in the application of evidence-based therapies.”