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Clinical Articles, News & Views

WHF calls for an end to gender bias in cardiovascular disease

Women are still discriminated against when it comes to the management and treatment of cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to a recent review from the World Heart Federation (WHF). They remain 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, according to the statement.

A group at the WHF’s World Congress of Cardiology (WCC) has called for further research, better information for healthcare professionals and women and tailor-made treatments to bridge the gap once and for all.

Professor Linda Worrall-Carter (St Vincent’s Centre for Nursing Research, Melbourne, Australia) and colleagues examined a sample of 2,000 Australian women, finding 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.”

Julie Anne Mitchell, Director of Cardiovascular Health Programs at the National Heart Foundation of Australia, said: “Over the next five years, the National Heart Foundation of Australia plan to switch their focus from awareness raising to more direct support of women diagnosed with heart disease. This will include a heightened focused on women’s clinical risk factors of heart disease; the atypical symptoms often associated with heart attack; the importance of cardiac rehabilitation and the necessity of sex specific data collection to enable better gender analysis of service provision and use. We plan to build on the work we started back in 2007 and this work will hopefully contribute to a brighter outlook for all women in Australia.”

Researchers at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, California, are calling for the introduction of cardio-oncology clinics, to support cancer survivors in implementing lifestyle changes and preventive measures for heart disease, says the statement. The research team has established a multidisciplinary program including cardiologists, breast cancer surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, as well as colleagues from cardiac imaging and rehabilitation medicine.

Dr Puja K Mehta (Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute) explains:  “Out of nearly 900 women we saw…over a seven month period, a significant number of cancer survivors also had cardiac problems such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes or coronary artery disease. Programs and strategies to identify cardiac risk factors in cancer survivors are needed and represent an excellent preventive opportunity.”

Furthermore, in Chicago, a team of physicians at Rush University Medical Center found that there are important differences between women who seek CVD care at heart centres for women or at general cardiology offices.  Dr Annabelle Volgman of Rush University talks about this research of 365 women and their care preferences: “Our most interesting finding was that the majority of women didn’t have a strong preference to see a female doctor, however, it was really important to them that the doctor they saw specialised in heart disease in women. Our research is a starting point in looking at women’s preferences and we need to do more in this area to confirm these findings and put them into practice.”

Published on: May 28, 2014

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