Why don't women get the same treatment for heart disease as men?

Why don’t women get the same treatment for heart disease as men?

Katherine Wilemon was 39 years old when she experienced a crushing pain in her chest and pain radiating up her right arm. Her jaw was set and she was scared.

The paramedics who took her to the emergency room (ED) said it was unlikely she was having a heart attack and told her to stay calm.

“If it was your husband, maybe, but there’s no way you’re having a heart attack,” one of them told her.

Their answer doesn’t really make sense, but it happens a lot.

Somehow, even though heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men, men and women are often treated differently for heart disease. And, a 2022 relationship showed significant differences in the guidance women and men receive regarding heart disease.

THE study of more than 8,500 adults aged 40 to 79 found that men were 20 percent more likely than women to receive a statin, a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Women were 27% more likely than men to be advised to lose weight, 38% more likely to be advised to exercise regularly, and 11% more likely to be advised to reduce weight. fat or calorie intake.

These findings may suggest gender bias, but the full story is more complex, according to Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of Atria New York City, clinical associate professor at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and a member of the Women’s Health Advisory Council. by HealthyWomen.

“It could be bias,” Goldberg said. “But there are so many things that could (contribute to) the lack of prescriptions (for) statin therapy.”

Goldberg said women aren’t always given full explanations of all of their options. Additionally, Goldberg sees many women concerned about potential side effects of statins and generally unsure about taking the medication long-term.

Recognizing heart attacks and heart disease is even more neglected in women under 55. Previous studies have shown that younger women are often treated less aggressively when they go to hospital with heart symptoms and are also more likely to die in hospital from a heart attack. A previous study found that women younger than 55 and people of color were more likely than others to be mistakenly sent home from the emergency room rather than hospitalized.

Unfortunately, recent research shows that another problem is that women are still struggling to be heard when it comes to heart issues. Second a study, women who went to the emergency room with chest pain were less likely to be considered in an emergency and less likely to be hospitalized. The study also found that people of color had to wait longer to be seen by a healthcare professional (HCP).

These disparities may be partly due to the fact that women’s heart disease symptoms are not always the same as men’s. A Study 2018 found that women are more likely to experience symptoms other than or in addition to chest pain, such as pain in the jaw, neck, arm or shoulder. The same study also found that, even though women were more likely than men to seek medical help for similar symptoms, more than half of the women reported that their doctor didn’t think their symptoms were heart-related.

There’s no one answer to this question, but Goldberg has offered several possibilities. One solution could be to have more female doctors. Another might be to give healthcare professionals better training so they understand what heart attacks and heart disease look like in women. She added, “(Doctors) need to be more curious and more aggressive about finding these risks.”

According to Goldberg, the biggest problem, however, is lack of access to health care and low health literacy. She suggested that reducing disparities in heart health care for women will require engaging communities and individuals to promote health screenings and meet people where they need to engage them in their health.

How to prevent heart disease

Despite the disparities, heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking are quite universal.

According to Goldberg, there are strategies to prevent heart disease. He recommends taking a proactive approach. Aerobic exercise, such as running, walking, dancing, or biking, is a great foundation for a heart disease prevention program. Aerobic exercise can help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure and improve your mood.

From that baseline, Goldberg suggests focusing on eating unprocessed foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and keeping meat and sweets to a minimum.

Recognize the risks and improve heart health

To prevent heart disease, it’s important to understand your risks.

“To really admit to self-care for a particular condition, you really have to feel like you’re at risk for it,” Goldberg said. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all policy. It’s about getting a diverse group of women to understand what their risks are.”

Goldberg recommends that women work with their healthcare providers to assess their specific risks. Healthcare professionals can check blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, and also investigate family history. If close relatives (such as parents or siblings) have had heart disease, you may also be at increased risk. Healthcare professionals may perform additional blood tests and CT scans to further identify risk factors.

However, knowing your risks may not be enough to prevent heart disease.

Wilemon had been on the alert for heart disease from an early age because she was at high risk for heart problems. However, she has repeatedly felt rejected. When she went to the emergency room with chest pain, her staff sent her home with the suggestion that she see her cardiologist.

Even the cardiologist wasn’t particularly worried. But Wilemon refused to leave his office without a new stress test. That test revealed that his heart was not getting the blood and oxygen he needed. She went straight into surgery with what turned out to be a 100% blockage of the main artery supplying blood to her heart.

“Heart disease is really scary and often deadly,” Wilemon said. “The best thing you can do is be proactive about your heart health. You are the most important person on your healthcare team.”

Wilemon went on to create the Heart Family Foundation to enable patients and families to treat and prevent heart disease. She recommends finding an advocate, such as a partner, parent, friend, or adult child, to help you navigate your health care.

“Healthcare in America is difficult to navigate on your own. If you don’t feel ‘right’ you may need someone else to make sure your concerns are being taken seriously,” Wilemon said. “Above all, listen to yourself and honor the cues that are coming from your body. go wrong to know that something is wrong with your body.

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