Ill-Equipped System Failing Women’s Hearts

A woman dies of heart disease in Canada every 20 minutes

The Heart and Stroke Foundation says there’s another glass ceiling for women to smash; that Canadian women are unnecessarily suffering and dying from heart disease because of inequities and biases resulting in a system ill-equipped to diagnose, treat and support them. “There are important differences in women’s hearts that are irrefutable and still poorly understood,” says Dr. Karin Humphries, scientific director of the B.C. Centre for Improved Cardiovascular Health.“The types of heart disease that affect women can be quite different from men, and require a women-specific approach to appropriately diagnose and treat.” The Foundation says:

  • A woman dies of heart disease in Canada every 20 minutes.
  • Early signs of an impending heart attack were missed in 78% of women, according to a retrospective study published in Circulation.
  • Two-thirds of heart disease clinical research still focuses on men.
  • Women are five times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer.
  • Women are more likely than men to die or have a second heart attack within the first six months of a cardiac event.

“This situation is an unintended consequence of a complicated set of factors including how society conducts health research, the time needed to advance scientific knowledge, sex and gender bias, and women’s tendency, as caregivers, to put others before themselves,” says Yves Savoie, CEO, Heart & Stroke. “We urgently need to catch up,” Savoie adds. “As a country, we need to change the fact that two-thirds of clinical research still focuses on men.” Savoie notes that together we need to:

  • Educate and equip healthcare systems and providers to think about, investigate and treat women’s heart disease differently than they do men’s.
  • Make sure women get the same access to cardiac rehabilitation.
  • Better support women so they can fully and deeply understand that taking care of others begins with taking care of themselves and that they are supported by their families, workplaces and healthcare providers in doing so.

Click here to view the entire 2018 Heart Report.