Time to Bridge the Gender Gap...
When it comes to heart disease and stroke, Canadian womens progress has not kept pace with mens, according to the 2007 Heart and Stroke Foundation Annual Report on Canadians Health. Research shows that, compared to a man, a womans risk of dying following a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack or stroke is higher, women are less likely to be treated by a specialist, are less likely to be transferred to another facility for treatment, and less likely to undergo cardiac catheterization or revascularization.
Its a real concern that womens heart health has not kept pace with mens, says Dr. Beth Abramson, cardiologist and spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. There has been some progress in closing the gender gap, but when it comes to Canadas leading cause of death, there are women who may be under-served on the front lines compared to men.
For years, it was assumed that care differences occurred because women tended to be older and sicker at the point they were hospitalized. But recent analysis shows that even when you control for age and other health conditions, a womens risk of dying within the first 30 days is 16% higher for heart attack, and 11% higher for stroke, than a mans. The reasons for this are unclear - contributing factors may be systemic, social, and biological but answers need to be found.
Further, the Heart and Stroke Foundation reveals that for the first time in 30 years, women have caught up to men when it comes to the number of deaths from cardiovascular disease.
Number of Deaths From Heart Disease and Stroke: Women vs. Men, 1973 to 2003
Number of deaths from cardiovascular disease, Statistics Canada
In 1973, there were 23% fewer female than male deaths from heart disease and stroke (34,924 female deaths vs. 45,404 male deaths). By 2003, the number of male deaths had fallen (by 19%, to 37,004), while the number of female deaths increased (by 5% to 36,823). For the first time, the number of deaths from heart disease and stroke combined is virtually the same between women and men (36,823 vs. 37,004).
Canadians have this cozy misperception that having a heart attack or stroke is no longer a big deal that you can be hospitalized, treated, and return home good as new, says Dr. Abramson. But the reality for a lot of people particularly for women is very different.
Almost 37,000 Canadian women will die of heart disease and stroke this year, and women have a higher risk of dying after a heart attack or stroke. We need to better understand why, and this inequity needs to be addressed. This is a serious health issue for Canadian women.
Other findings include:
Source: Canadian Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Team
Source: Canadian Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Team
We also need to look at access to care through a gender lens, says Dr. Abramson. Why are women less likely than men to be treated by a cardiac specialist? And why are they less likely than men to have bypass surgery or an angioplasty? This is an important piece of the puzzle.
ILLUMINATING THE GENDER GAP
A national survey of Canadians aged 35 and over conducted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation found two realities when it comes to knowledge of heart health and cardiac care. Women were acutely aware of the problems faced by female heart patients and a womans increased risk of dying. But many men have not seen the light when it comes to the heart health of their partners, mothers, siblings, or loved ones.
Men still see heart disease as a mans disease. Over half (53%) of men erroneously thought the number of heart and stroke deaths was somewhat or a lot less in women compared to men (an error made by only 27% of the women polled). Of those without a history of heart disease or stroke, 42% of the men believed it was somewhat or very likely they would develop it at some point in their lives but only 24% thought their partner or spouse would. Women, on the other hand, were more realistic about their chances: 45% thought it was likely they would develop heart disease or stroke and 43% that their partner would.
Heart and Stroke Foundation Poll of Canadians Aged 35 and Over
Results are from a nationally representative sample of 1,200 (margin of error +3.1%, 19 times out of 20); * difference between men and women is statistically significant p<.001 ** difference between men and women is statistically significant p<.01</i/>
Women and men need to realize that heart disease and stroke are equal opportunity killers, says Dr. Abramson. We need a proactive approach to womens heart health in Canada. The gender gap can and must be closed.
TIME TO ACT IS NOW, SAYS HEART AND STROKE FOUNDATION
The Heart and Stroke Foundation works on the issue of women and heart disease on a number of fronts, says Sally Brown, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Along with specific, targeted research and health information, the Foundation is a leader in the development of the Canadian Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan, which will improve the heart health of all Canadians, but also specifically look at how to address gender and other inequities.
In 2000, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada led the development of the Victoria Declaration on Women, Heart Diseases and Stroke international recommendations on how to ensure equity in heart health status between women and men. Many of the key recommendations from Victoria have not been implemented and are still relevant in 2007, including
To research funding bodies and universities:
To the health care system:
To Canadian women and men:
HOW IS THE HEART AND STROKE FOUNDATION ADDRESSING THIS ISSUE?
Heart and Stroke Foundation information on womens heart health and healthy living can be found at heartandstroke.ca or by calling 1-888-HSF-INFO (1-888-473-4636).
The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.
NOTE: This press release constitutes the Heart and Stroke Foundations Annual Report on Canadians Health there is no separate report document.
Journalists may join the Toronto press conference by dialing 1-800-595-8550 and asking for the Heart and Stroke Foundation Press Conference.
B-roll will be available through CNW Group at the listed times and co-ordinates:
Live Satellite Coordinates:
DATE OF FEED: Wednesday, January 31, 2007
PATHFIRE Digital Media Gateway Coordinates:
DATE OF FEED: Wednesday, January 31,2007
For more information:
For provincial media contacts: see contact us at www.heartandstroke.ca
Date of last update: March 1, 2007
 Health Care in Canada 2006. Canadian Institute for Health Information, 2006
 Number of deaths, Statistics Canada