Inequities Persist in Women's Cardiovascular Care

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , June 23, 2011

A few months ago, while researching an article about women's cardiac care for this month's issue of HealthLeaders Media magazine, I kept hearing female physicians telling me that male doctors don't always pick up the fact that their female patients may have a cardiac issue because often no pain is reported.

Certainly, we're not talking about a majority of physicians, but there are still some out there who treat women differently in cardiac care, and not in a good way. There is not only a great need for women patients to learn more about heart issues, and the differences with men in that regard, as well as some physicians themselves.

Cardiac disease is a top killer of women, but too often patients don't know how important their symptoms are, and aren't conveying them properly to doctors. While chest pain, for instance, may be a telling sign of a heart problem for men, the symptoms for women may be more subtle, such as jaw pain or simply feeling sluggish.

If we are going to learn more and be more instructive about women's heart health, there need to be more clinical trials in the pipeline for women. As of now, there are still too few women enrolled in cardiovascular-related clinical trials.

That is disturbing.

Physicians, many of them female, are prodding hospitals to do a better job in improving cardiac outcomes for women, through education programs, as well as reaching out to their colleagues to recognize the potential warning signs or symptoms of heart disease in women versus men. The lack of awareness often results in less aggressive treatment by healthcare providers for women and that has to change.

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