PhD, Director, Health Equity and Mission Impact, Heart & Stroke Foundation
Gaps in awareness, research, diagnosis, and care are creating threats to women’s heart and brain health.
Women make up just over half of Canada’s population, yet there’s a continued lack of awareness and understanding around women’s heart and brain health. Two thirds of heart and stroke clinical research participants are men, and when women are included, an analysis by sex and gender isn’t always done. As a result, approaches to prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care often don’t equally apply to women.
Women’s bodies are not the same as men’s — and neither are their lives. Women face distinct risk factors for heart disease and stroke, including being at an elevated risk at different points in their lives, like pregnancy or menopause. Women are also more likely to experience certain types of heart and brain conditions than men and can present with different signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Shockingly, half of the women who experience heart attacks have their symptoms go unrecognized, and women are less likely than men to receive the treatments or medications they need.
Driving positive change
Social differences also impact women’s heart and brain health. Women often put the needs of others before their own and take on most unpaid caregiving responsibilities, making negative health outcomes more likely. Compounding factors can also further affect how women receive care, including race, Indigeneity, income, and where they live.
Some progress has been made, but much more needs to be done to better support women’s heart and brain health. The Heart and Stroke Foundation is committed to driving this change by raising awareness, funding more women-focused research, and working to change policies, systems, and attitudes — but we can’t do it alone.
February is Heart Month and I encourage everyone to join the conversation about women’s heart and brain health so we can live in a world where every woman gets the care they need. Together, we can beat health inequity.