Women's Heart Disease Under Studied

Gender impacts cardiovascular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Heart disease research more frequently involves men. Yet a third of deaths among U.S. women are from cardiovascular disease, sparking recent interest in gender's role in heart disease.

An October gender disparities conference at the University of Mississippi has been scheduled to provide insight on the differences between the sexes when it comes to heart disease. Even signs and symptoms vary among the genders.

"Know the signs of heart disease, they vary by gender."

Jane Reckelhoff, chair of the conference, a professor of physiology and biophysics at the University of Mississippi and director of the new Women’s Health Research Center, said there is currently a huge interest in sex differences in cardiovascular disease. She said the topic has become of the most written-about topics in medical journals recently.

In the United States, about 42 million women suffer from heart disease making it the top killer of adult women, though at times it is still referred to as a men's health issue.

But among the sexes, heart disease symptoms are quite different. Signs of heart attack in women includes vomiting, throat discomfort, a feeling of chest pressure and anxiety. Men, on the other hand, generally complain of crushing chest pain on the right side of the body.

Dr. Reckelhoff  said that medications designed for individualized care are now being offered, but medical training remains behind in the field. She said that men and women are not treated differently when it comes to heart disease. Since medical students are not usually taught the different symptoms each gender tends to experience, women tend to be underdiagnosed.

She said the upcoming conference called Physiology of Cardiovascular Disease: Gender Disparities is an important step in addressing the issue.

The Oct. 12-14 Jacksonville conference is sponsored by the American Physiological Society with support from the American Heart Association.

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Review Date: 
August 20, 2011
Last Updated:
August 22, 2011