Experts are saying that American women are not getting the help that they need; they are stressing the importance of doing more research, giving women medical advice on how to avoid heart disease and putting American women on a heart healthy path.
New studies from the leading heart research source, The American Heart Association, show a gender gap in cardiac care because women are understudied, under-diagnosed and undertreated according to reports. This is the reason why heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death among American women today.
Dr. Tara Narula, CBS News medical contributor and a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and national spokesman for the American Heart Association, commented on the research. She said that the annual mortality rate for cardiovascular disease for women has outpaced men since 1984; research also shows that women are likely to do worse after their first heart attack, with longer hospitalizations, readmission and serious complications that often become life-threatening.
The gap stems from different gender differences, starting with biological factors. “Women tend to be older when they have cardiovascular symptoms -- around the age of 70 compared to men in their 60s. Certain risk factors can also be more potent for women, including tobacco, diabetes, depression and other psychosocial factors,” according to CBS news.
Experts are saying that the presentation of symptoms is often also different for women, which can lead to misdiagnosis. There have been movements to try to stir support for more research on heart disease in women and getting the word out of what these symptoms actually look like in females. Such movements include the Go Red campaign, which is even supported by large companies such as Macy’s.
Dr. Narula told CBS that experts are now learning that the biology of women's heart disease is probably very different from men in terms of how they have their heart attacks, and the mechanisms of their blood vessel dysfunction.
Dr. Narula also said that countless health care practitioners share the blame for ‘misdiagnosing’ female heart disease patients, for doing things like ‘not sending them for diagnostic evaluation’ as often, and ‘not giving them the guidelines for treatment’ that they need.
Experts at the American Heart Associate are saying that around 80% of heart disease cases are actually preventable and only 55% of women are aware that heart disease is their ‘biggest health threat’.
Dr. Narula is stressing the importance of empowering women to know the symptoms and take preventative measures. Most women do not recognize the symptoms. Helpful preventative measures include: getting annual physical examinations, knowing the risk factors, and not ignoring symptoms. Narula stressed the importance of check-ups saying, “One of the things the AHA is promoting is a 'well woman' visit. This is the idea that you go as a woman to see an internist, an OB guide and talk about your health history, your family history, your risk factors, before you ever get to the point where you have a problem.”