Report: Women unnecessarily suffering from heart disease due to lack of research

OTTAWA — A new report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation says Canadian women are “unnecessarily suffering and dying from heart disease” because of a system that is ill-equipped to diagnose, treat and support them.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada, yet women’s hearts are still vastly misunderstood,” said foundation CEO Yves Savoie in a report released Thursday.

“It’s shocking that we are so far behind in our understanding of women’s hearts, and that new knowledge is so slow to reach the bedside.”

The report says a woman dies of heart disease in Canada every 20 minutes and are five times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer yet two-thirds of heart disease clinical research still focuses on men.

“Women are under-researched, under-diagnosed and under-treated, under-supported and under-aware,” said Savoie. “It’s unacceptable, and the situation has got to change — we need to smash this glass ceiling.”

The foundation said women are more likely than men to die or have a second heart attack within the first six months of a cardiac event and women are less likely to get bypass surgery and stents to restore blood flow.

Savoie said there is a need to “educate and equip health care systems and providers to think about, investigate and treat women’s heart disease differently than they do men’s.”

On the positive side, Savoie said more organizations that fund research are requiring sex and gender to be considered in research proposals and that Canadian researchers are at the forefront of new studies into heart conditions that predominantly affect women.

“Progress has been made recently, but not nearly fast enough to equitably protect women’s hearts,” said Savoie.

“The challenge is to accelerate the pace of change, to gather new knowledge and translate it into better and safer heart healthcare for women.”

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