Episode 26. The ‘Not So’ Atypical Patient: Women’s Heart Health

In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, killing 1 in 5. But how did we get here? Cardiology and heart disease is an extremely well studied field yet it still feels like women are being left behind as they die at alarming rates. Join us in this episode to talk about the history of heart disease, why there is a gaping hole in women’s heart research, and the state of women’s heart health today. We will also discuss how to take steps in your own health to work towards preventing cardiovascular disease as well as how to advocate for yourself at the doctor! The statistics on women’s heart health are shocking, and even a little scary, so we are here to provide some more information and the who, what , why and how behind these numbers!

Feminist Corner:

Challenge question: what are goals we can set in our lives to start down a path for good cardiovascular health! Also what are some goals/strategies you can set to start making position changes in your heart health.

Listen to the episode, discuss these questions with friends and family, let us know what you think!

Show Notes:

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States? It actually kills 1 in 5 women to be exact. Overall, heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined. So needless to say, this topic is extremely important to talk about.

First we must look to the past and consider how long heart disease has been around. Turns out it has been around for a bit longer than you may think. There is evidence that people died of heart attacks as far back as ancient egypt, peru, and alaska! There are also writings that speak of heart attack symptoms such as chest pain in ancient tests from egypt and even in arabian love poems. 

Flash forward to the 1700s when a paper was published that officially detailed the symptoms of chest pain that many experience. From there cardiology research took off. Suddenly treatments were being discovered, protocols put in place, and lives safed. Well not all lives. Up until the late 1990s, women were not included in any of this research. Women were not allowed to be participants in research studies for such a long time that cardio research in women was put back decades. 

However today as women are being studied more in cardiology, we are finding some astonishing things. Like women with similar risk factors as men are actually at a higher disease risk than men, despite the same factors. Or even that women have their own upset of factors that contribute to their high disease risk. Also some cardiac diseases affect a majority of women only! 

As science learns more about women’s heart health, it is still not where it needs to be. Which makes it even more important for women to take their own steps in preventing heart disease. 

By knowing your risk factors, keeping track of your health, making positive lifestyle changes, and advocating for yourself, women everywhere can work to decrease the horrible statistics that apply to women’s cardiology today.


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K. K., MD. (2017). Cardiovascular Disease in Women. Methodist Debakey Cardiovasc J, 183-184.

Doshi, V. (2015, October 26). Why Doctors Still Misunderstand Heart Disease in Women. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/10/heart-disease-women/412495/

Hajar, R. (2017). Coronary heart disease: From mummies to 21st century. Heart Views, 18(2), 68. doi:10.4103/heartviews.heartviews_57_17

Lewis, S. J. (2002). Cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women: Myths and reality. The American Journal of Cardiology, 89(12), 5-10. doi:10.1016/s0002-9149(02)02403-7

Shufelt, C. L., Pacheco, C., Tweet, M. S., & Miller, V. M. (2018). Sex-Specific Physiology and Cardiovascular Disease. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology Sex-Specific Analysis of Cardiovascular Function, 433-454. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-77932-4_27

Thomas, J. L., & Braus, P. A. (1998). Coronary Artery Disease in Women. Archives of Internal Medicine, 158(4), 333. doi:10.1001/archinte.158.4.333

Women and Heart Disease. (2020, January 31). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/women.htm

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