We know that women’s bodies are different from men’s. But, health care research often fails to consider sex differences in study design and analysis. Or, the research overlooks sex differences and generalizes findings to include women when men are the primary research participants. Not surprisingly, women may not be getting the health care they need, particularly when it comes to certain diseases.
For example, a 2007 article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine on gender bias in research reported that a lot more money is directed towards studying coronary artery disease in men than in women. But the older women who are at risk have higher morbidity and mortality rates than men.
To help ensure women are getting appropriate care, among other things, more research dollars need to go to studying coronary heart disease in women. Four hundred thousand women die each year of heart disease, almost one death each minute. In fact, more women die of heart disease each year than of all cancers combined. Yet, not even one in four participants in heart-related studies are women according to the Women’s Heart Alliance.
Recently, a Women’s Heart Alliance poll of primary care doctors and cardiologists found that they did not see heart disease in women as their top concern, even though it is the number one killer of women as well as men. And, half of all doctors surveyed disagreed with the fact that women’s hearts are physiologically different from men’s. The signs of heart attack can also be different.
Here’s some additional cause for concern for women:
- Lung cancer is a major killer of women, greater than breast, uterine and ovarian cancers combined. Yet, women are often not as well represented as men in the research and gender differences are often not studied and reported.
- Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men. And, women have been shown to metabolize drugs in a different manner from men. Yet, depression research often does not take gender differences into account.
- Two out of three people with Alzheimer’s disease are women, but differences in physiology between men and women have not been studied to help understand the disease.
To make matters worse, twice as many women as men over 65 live in poverty.
Here are some ways to make sure your mom and the mom’s you love are safe and healthy.