Are Women’s General Practitioners Failing to be Heart Smart?
Women are affected by heart disease at higher rates than men not because they don’t care about their health but because they aren’t being tracked by their doctors at the same rate as males. The reason men's heart disease rates have decreased over the past thirty years is because the focus of Public health campaigns, marketing for heart disease care and prevention as well as doctors fail to focus on women.
A study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that male General Practitioners, GP’s, are less likely than female GP’s to collect information on smoking, blood glucose and cholesterol from their female patients than their male patients. Female GP's were found to have a higher rate of compliance with the recommended guidelines for heart disease tracking and were more apt to ask their female patients the pertinent questions so they would be able to track their patient's health. The findings are from Europe but the results still hit close to home. Women are not being tracked as well as men when it comes to heart disease. They are also failing to respond to campaigns aimed at preventing and decreasing heart disease.
The majority of women’s health issues focus on reproductive health. While it is important to pay attention to reproductive health it fails to take into consideration whole health. The years when women are of child-bearing age estrogen is thought to protect women from heart disease. During these years women should have active conversations with their Gynecologist and/or their GP about heart disease and prevention. The patient/physician relationship should be built so conversations regarding heart health and lifestyle are held at every chance the physician has to see their patient. Increasing awareness at a during the doctor’s visit will help increase the likelihood women will take preventative steps to increase their heart health before the protective effects of estrogen dissipate.
The next step to heart health lies in marketing how a healthy lifestyle will prevent heart disease later in life. The National Institutes of Health found heart disease is still the leading cause of death amongst women despite preventive measures put in place in the 1980’s. Their findings showed males have reduced their rate of heart disease while women remain at the same incident level. The message needs to change to connect with women if they want to see a decrease in women's heart disease rates by changing the way the messages are sent in campaigns. Women need to be shown as actively fighting heart disease, not being the caretakers of men who are fighting heart disease. Campaigns should empower women to talk to their physician about heart health by connecting with women at a personal level.
It is important to include women in the process of creating public health campaigns and advertising for heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer for women in general, specifically for Caucasians and African American women, their needs, how they respond to information and the way the information is presented must be considered. There is a need to be cognizant of how women, especially those with a high risk factor, respond to campaigns for heart disease prevention.
A lack of information, education and preventative marketing for women leads to a lack of improvement in women's heart health. Campaigns which focus on women, their risk and their need to tell their doctor their health habits need to be created. Patients and Physicians need to work together to find a solution to the leading killer of women together not separately. Through a joint effort awareness can be raised, health habits addressed and heart disease decreased.
1. Delpech,Raphaëlle,Ringa,Virginie, Falcoff,Hector, & Rigal,Laurent. ( 2016, June 21). Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: More patient gender-based differences in risk evaluation among male general practitioners. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. Doi: 10.177/2047487316648476. Retrieved from http://cpr.sagepub.com/content/early/2016/06/09/2047487316648476.full.
2. National Institutes of Health. (2010,February 2). Even With Heart Disease Awareness on the Rise, Prevention Remains Critically Important for American Women: The Heart Truth campaign urges women to take action. (National Institutes of Health Publication). Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/even-heart-disease-awareness-rise-prevention-remains-critically-important-american-women