Gender Disparities in Heart Health & Health Care

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Gender DisparitiesIt’s International Women’s Day: a day to celebrate, respect, and promote the global achievement of women while providing an opportunity to turn attention towards gender disparities that still exist.

And due to the massive turnout at January’s Women’s March on Washington, it’s abundantly clear there is still a long way to go.

And health care is definitely an area that needs some attention.

Gender Discrepancies in Health Care

Regardless of political affiliation or views on gender, when it comes to health, there are discrepancies in how men and women experience and are treated for illnesses. Many common illnesses in the United States affecting both men and women come with different symptoms, which lead to different outcomes.

Heart Attack Symptoms for Women

Heart disease and heart attacks are the biggest killers of women in the country, much like they are for men. That said, women are more likely to die following a heart attack than men, and they also experience higher delays in getting treatment in emergency care. This discrepancy may have to do with the way men and women experience heart attack symptoms, which may go unrecognized by some medical professionals and women themselves. Whereas men experience a crushing pain in the chest when having a heart attack, women can face a multitude of symptoms like:

  • Discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, abdomen, or upper back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

Furthermore, women are likely to experience these symptoms during rest or sleep, making them even harder to identify.

Heart Attack Risks for Women

Along with unique symptoms, women also have a differing set of risk factors than their male counterparts. These risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Mental stress and depression
  • Smoking
  • Inactivity
  • Menopause
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Broken heart syndrome: Usually brought on by highly stressful situations that cause heart muscle failure; it is more common in menopausal women

Other Health Issues Affecting Women Differently

The fact that specific signs of female heart attack and risk factors have been overlooked in the past is likely largely a reflection of male-dominated studies, which have had their findings applied to the general population. However, after further examination, it has been proven that women experience their own set of distinct symptoms that are now being further recognized and understood.

Some other health issues that affect women differently than men include:

  • Alcohol abuse
  • Mental health
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Stress
  • Stroke (more women than men suffer strokes each year)
  • Urinary tract health

 


Sources for Today’s Article

“What health issues or conditions affect women differently than men?” National Institutes of Health, 2017; https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/womenshealth/conditioninfo/pages/howconditions.aspx, last accessed March 2, 2017.

“Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors” Mayo Clinic, June 14, 2016; http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-disease/art-20046167, last accessed March 2, 2017.


 

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