Experts call for an end to gender bias in cardiovascular disease

Despite the fact that half of the 17.3 million deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) each year happen in females, women are still discriminated against when it comes to the management and treatment of this disease.

Women are more likely than men to be under-diagnosed and under-treated, mostly because the presentation, progression and outcomes of the disease are different and less understood in women than in men.

Although there has been progress in raising awareness about CVD in women and studying the specifics of the disease, as well as in adapting CVD treatment and care for women, the gap is still too wide.

A group of leading experts at the World Heart Federation’s World Congress of Cardiology (WCC) is calling for further research, better information for healthcare professionals and women and tailor-made treatments to bridge this gap once and for all.

To celebrate “Wear Red Day” for women at WCC, new research is presented on women’s heart health, alongside examples of work being undertaken in several countries to improve the recognition, prevention and treatment of CVD and practical ways to provide better, targeted care for women.

Professor Linda Worrall-Carter, Director of St Vincent’s Centre for Nursing Research (SVCNR) & The Cardiovascular Research Centre (CvRC) will be presenting a new study that further reinforces the need for research and better information for women: in a sample of 2000 Australian women, Professor Worrall-Carter and colleagues found that young women aged 35-59 years experiencing acute coronary syndromes were less likely than men to undergo coronary interventions.

Future research investigating symptom presentation of younger women as well as exploring perceptions of health care workers is needed, as it could explain the reasons of this disparity, says Professor Worrall-Carter.

“We need to ensure that all health professionals understand gender differences when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Awareness regarding atypical symptom presentations of women and understanding healthcare workers perceptions are key to ensure women are getting the most appropriate and timely treatment, no matter their age or background.”

Women themselves also need to be better informed: CVD is the number one killer of women, but the risk of dying or becoming seriously harmed due to heart disease and stroke is still largely underestimated by the majority of women, who do not perceive CVD as one of their major health concerns.

Together with its members across the world, the World Heart Federation runs the annual Go Red for Women campaign to improve women’s knowledge of heart disease and stroke so that they can take action and achieve longer, better heart-healthy lives.

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