American Heart Association Calls for Urgent Action to Address Disparities in Women's Heart Health

By Tamara Thomas - January 6, 2023

A new presidential advisory from the American Heart Association calls for an urgent need to identify and remove barriers to healthcare access, quality, and equity for women.

According to the advisory, investing in and improving research, awareness, and equity in women’s cardiovascular health is critical for their overall health and well-being.

The advisory calls for a cultural shift in how heart health data is presented so that health equity for women is achieved. They further suggested that data tailored to women may improve diagnostic or therapeutic choices, thus helping to increase equitable care.

Furthermore, the advisory cautions against using men’s data as the gold standard.

“For example, the belief that women having a heart attack will present more often with atypical symptoms carries an undertone that women present in the ‘wrong way,'” says Véronique L. Roger, the advisory committee’s corresponding author and a senior investigator at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

The advisory outlined 4 key areas that require attention and investment to better address women’s heart health. These areas include:

  • epidemiology and prevention
  • awareness
  • access and delivery of equitable health care
  • involvement of health care professionals, researchers, and communities

“We must urgently address the pervasive gaps in knowledge and health care delivery to reduce gender-based disparities and achieve equity. There is no improving cardiovascular health without achieving health equity,” states co-author of the presidential advisory Nanette K. Wenger, an emeritus professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at Emory University School of Medicine.

The advisory also noted that some risk factors for heart disease carry a different risk for cardiovascular disease events in women than in men. Some of these risk factors include early menarche or menopause; gestational diabetes or hypertension; oral contraceptive use and hormone replacement therapy; inflammatory or autoimmune disorders; depression and anxiety; and treatment for cancers, which are more prevalent in women.

“We need to help women develop a ‘lifetime approach’ to their health, where they are empowered to proactively manage their heart disease risk in every life stage,” said Wenger.

The advisory also expressed concern about the heart health of women in the US who are pregnant or considering pregnancy. The writers believe that the heart health of pregnant women is less than optimal, which may lead to pregnancy challenges for the mother and later health risks or complications for her and her children.

“We recommend cardiologists, primary care physicians, and obstetricians and gynecologists work together to quantify and reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease throughout a woman’s life. These interdisciplinary partnerships are crucial to developing and implementing the best approaches that will yield improvements in women’s overall health,” said Wenger.

The advisory also noted that advocacy and educational campaigns to raise awareness for heart disease among women are declining. They suggested increasing education for healthcare professionals to help reduce this decline. According to their findings, nearly 7 of 10 post-graduate medical trainees reported receiving minimal to no training regarding gender-based medical concepts. In addition, only 22% of physicians and 42% of cardiologists felt adequately prepared to assess heart disease specific to women.

The Presidential Advisory concluded the session with 6 specific calls to action for healthcare professionals, researchers, and the public. These include the following:

  1. Create and implement appropriate and culturally sensitive heart health awareness campaigns that emphasize the benefits of education and prevention.
  2. Encourage advocacy for legislative interventions and public policies that address social determinants of health, including access to healthy food, high-quality treatment, and public spaces for physical activity.
  3. Engage communities in heart health programs, including girls in their primary school years.
  4. Increase the number of research studies involving women, particularly those from diverse racial backgrounds and those who are younger.
  5. Improve clinical care and prevention through collaborations between cardiology and other specialties, such as obstetrics/gynecology and primary care, to improve recognition of heart disease risk factors and provide tools to calculate risk specific to women.
  6. Survey and monitor disease and risk factor data to better capture information crucial to improving prevention and outcomes while delivering more effective health care.

“Making these advances in research and addressing gaps in and barriers to access health care are fundamental to the American Heart Association’s commitment to advancing cardiovascular health for everyone,” Roger said.

 

Source: Medical News

Post Tags:Women's Health
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