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Inequities Persist in Women's Cardiovascular Care

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, June 23, 2011

Such programs are important because "this particular group of women has been shown to have the lowest rate of followup care – cardiac rehab – which has proven effectiveness in reducing the recurrence rate of cardiovascular disease," Dankle says.

"I believe part of the reason for this is lack of support" Dankle said the other day. "I have so many young women that have suffered heart disease, tell me they felt 'out of place' at cardiac rehab because they were the youngest attending. I want these women to understand they are not alone."

One of the problems in healthcare is the relatively small number of women included in clinical trials about cardiac disease, which would increase understanding of cardiac care for women.

Rebecca Ortega, director of Women In Innovations, a Washington DC-based program launched by the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions to educate interventional cardiology community about heart disease in women, says women account for only 30% of patients enrolled in most cardiovascular disease trials. That percentage should be about 40%, she says.

A WIN study also cites data that shows differential treatment between men and women. For instance, when showing heart attack symptoms, women are often less likely than men to have an electrocardiogram done within 10 minutes, to be cared for by a cardiologist during their inpatient admission, or to be given heparin or another medication, according to WIN.

"We don't have a lot of data with men vs. women when it comes to these various cardiovascular issues," Ortega says. There are complications to be overcome in the clinical trial process, she says. For instance, when women exhibit pain related to heart conditions in their jaws or exhibit fatigue, "by then their (heart) condition may be further along and they will not be eligible for enrollment" in a clinical trial, Ortega says. In addition, some women may be more reluctant to be enrolled in clinical trials than men, Ortega says. "From where I'm sitting, it's a multipronged problem and there's no one solution."

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