Fuck Yeah, Gender Studies!: Gender and Heart Health: Medicine, why do you have to be a heartbreaker?

Smoking is more likely to give women heart disease than men, a study has found.

Toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke may have a more potent effect on women due to biological differences, scientists believe.

US researchers analysed pooled data on around 4 million individuals from 86 studies. After adjusting for other risk factors, they found the increased risk of heart disease linked to smoking was 25% higher for women.

The longer a woman smoked, the greater her heart disease risk was compared with that of a man who had smoked for the same length of time. A woman’s extra risk increased by 2% for every additional year she had been smoking.
(Heart Disease Risk Greater for Women Smokers— Guardian) 

With new evidence today in the Lancet that smoking-heart disease risk is 25% higher for women, it seems as good a time as any to offer a refresher on how gender plays into heart health.

It’s really fucking despicable that the most advice women as a group receive about their hearts is pretty much to make sure they don’t get broken.

Because—listen (read) closely here—women are dying because this information is not getting out:

Patriarchal medicine kills women.

Sounds like an overreaction, right? Well, it fucking isn’t.
Medicine as a whole is overwhelming focussed on men’s health (funding, publicity, research). This fact has particularly egregious implication when it comes to women’s hearts.
Myocardial Infarction (heart attack) and heart disease kill more American women than men every single year and pose more of a threat to American women than the combined threat of every form of cancer. Unfortunately, many women (and doctors) do not know that the symptoms of a woman having a heart attack can be significantly different from those of a man, and that the commonly publicised “warning signs” and “symptoms” of heart attack are actually not that common.

Like chest pain. 
Yeah, chest pain! You read that right.

 Almost everybody believes that chest pain is the primary and most telling symptom of a heart attack. Not so, not in women. Only about 30% of women will experience chest pain/discomfort prior to a heart attack and 43% won’t experience any chest pain DURING one. At all.
So why do doctors still consider chest pain the most important marker of MI around? Why do so many doctors not even know that men’s and women’s symptoms differ? If neither the public nor those employed to take care of the public know, it’s no fucking wonder so many women are dying.

Major heart attack symptoms in women preceding the attack in order of reported frequency include:

  • Unusual fatigue — 70%
  • Sleep disturbance — 48%
  • Shortness of breath — 42%
  • Indigestion — 39%
  • Anxiety — 35%

Major acute symptoms during a heart attack in women in order of reported frequency include:

  • Shortness of breath — 58%
  • Weakness — 55%
  • Unusual fatigue — 43%
  • Cold sweat — 39%
  • Dizziness — 39%

Add to this the fact that heart device studies ignore women.

So—What the fuck?

Why are women being ignored? Why are researchers, physicians and governments ignoring these genuinely grave differences between cardiac function/dysfunction in men and women? 

Can someone please tell me, because i don’t fucking get it.

My sister is a doctor, and she said they’ve known this for quite a while.

That actually makes it worse, you know. Doctors know this stuff but don’t pass the information on to patients? What the fuck kind of shit is that?

There are fresh news articles this week on this subject (e.g. http://healthland.time.com/2012/02/22/heart-attack-in-women-different-symptoms-higher-risk-of-death/) (i originally wrote about this issue in September 2010). Clearly it’s not common knowledge, but if doctors have been aware for ages, why isn’t it?

*people termed women by society because they happen to have a uterus.

I’m not actually sure what lies behind the difference—whether it’s something that’s congenital/innate in the “female” body, or whether it’s because of things that mostly women do/experience (e.g. take oral contraceptives; have greater or lower levels of certain hormones; undergo the stress of pregnancy and childbirth, etc. etc. etc.). I don’t think it’s as simple as uterus/no uterus!
As far as i’m aware, no consensus has been reached concerning the etiology of this difference, and consequently there is no hypothesis that has been tested. 

I would be very interested to see these studies repeated to collect data on trans* folk taking hormone treatments. 

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  15. fuckyeahgenderstudies reblogged this from poison--paradigm and added:
    Yes; I agree with what you’ve said, and will edit the language (in the original post; this i will keep for...
  16. we-are-the-weirdos-mister reblogged this from fuckyeahgenderstudies and added:
    Because the medical field, in general is one of the most disturbingly conservative and patriarchal. Medical discoveries...
  17. poison--paradigm reblogged this from fuckyeahgenderstudies and added:
    i understand that medical literature is one of the most difficult discourses within which to be inclusive of trans*...
  18. bitchiamtheswanqueer reblogged this from fuckyeahgenderstudies and added:
    I don’t know if anyone mentioned this (I kinda skimmed), but women are also not taken seriously when they go to the...
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  23. fuckyeahsexeducation reblogged this from fuckyeahgenderstudies and added:
    *people termed women by society because they happen to have a uterus.
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