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Discussion

Facts:

  • Women see physicians and other health care professionals more often than men.

  • Women are more likely to have regular contact with a physician or nurse. This may be a related to gynecological and obstetrial care, but may also be related to the fact that women are more likely to take other people to appointments (children, elderly parents or others to whom they provide care).

Are there differences in the treatment of health conditions by physicians based on gender?

Some studies indicate so.

The public is often aware of the "classic" signs and symptoms of a heart attack, but many do not know that the presentation in women is often different. Symptoms in a woman are often much milder, and may feel like fatigue, breathless or nausea. Symptoms of anxiety and upper body pain are quite common. Chest pain may be absent.

In addition to the well known risk factors for heart disease, women who are post-menopausal are at increased risk, especially if receiving hormone-replacement therapy.

Is the general population aware of such gender differences?

Even though heart disease is the most common cause of death in the older women, the vast majority of patients in cardiovascular studies are men.

Women account for approximately only one third of the angioplasties, stents, and bypass surgeries performed in North America and receive fewer invasive tests for the investigation of heart disease. They are also less likely to be prescribed beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, or aspirin, medications commonly used to treat heart disease.

Activities for inquiry:

Investigate an area that interests you to explore possible gender bias in health care treatments. Use popular media, such as the internet, to explore common portrayals of heart disease and heart attacks. Send us your examples!

Explore the medical literature and popular media for possible reasons for gender differences in the treatment of heart disease.