Despite decades of progress, unfair disparities between the sexes remain pervasive in our society.
Whether the subject is income, professional advancement or simple fairness, women often get the short end of the stick. Alas, this also holds true in medicine and represents a particularly vexing problem when it comes to heart disease.
We recognize clear differences between the hearts of women and those of men. But most studies of heart disease focus only on men.
Guidelines for Women Based on Studies of Men
In the 156 randomized clinical trials that form the basis for the American Heart Association’s Guidelines for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Women, only 30 percent of patients enrolled were female. In addition, only one-third of the studies reported results for men and women separately.
This means that much of our advice for women comes from studies of men!
It’s Against the Law!
The NIH Revitalization Act of 1993 states that NIH must include women and minorities in major clinical trials in order to determine whether treatment effects differ in these groups. But today women represent only 27 percent of subjects enrolled in NIH-sponsored studies of cardiovascular disease. If we want to understand the gender-specific features of heart disease and its treatment, we will need to do better than that.
Remember, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women!
What You Can Do
Some scientists claim that women are underrepresented because they are reluctant to participate in medical studies and more likely to withdraw from them. Prove these statements wrong—if your doctor offers you a spot in a clinical trial, take the time to consider it.
If you do participate, you will help both yourself and women everywhere!
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