Heart disease should top the list of women's health concerns but, according to a Viewpoint article to be published in the October 2006 issue of Nature Clinical Practice Cardiovascular Medicine, it doesn't even come close. To raise awareness of this critical issue, Sharonne Hayes explores what we can do to improve the identification and care of women with and at risk of heart disease.
Today, more than six million women in the US live with coronary heart disease, and, since 1984, cardiovascular disease has killed more women than men every year. Yet women still do not receive the same standard of treatment as men and there is a lack of relevant research in women, resulting in a substantial sex-based knowledge gap. Doctors still underestimate women's cardiovascular risk; women with heart disease receive less-intensive therapy and are more likely to be misdiagnosed than men. This inequality, along with societal misconceptions and a possible biological difference, means that more women with heart disease die than men.
Many women have a disproportionately greater fear of dying from breast cancer than heart disease: a misunderstanding that needs to change. Improving doctors' awareness of early cardiovascular risk factors and treatment in women, carrying out research and, importantly, making sure women are aware of heart disease, are crucial if we are to improve women's cardiovascular health.
Sharonne N Hayes (Women's Heart Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA)
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(C) Nature Clinical Practice Cardiovascular Medicine press release.
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