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For the past few days, Your Morning has been looking at the effects of heart disease and stroke, and the differences between men and women. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, women who have had a stroke have outcomes worse than those of men. Staff cardiologist at Mackenzie Health and spokesperson for Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation Dr. Sherryn Rambihar stopped by to share that, when it comes to heart disease and stroke, women continue to be under-researched, under-diagnosed, under-treated, under-supported and under-aware of the risks. The research gap means we lack critical information about the impact of differences between women’s and men’s hearts and brains.
See below for some of important information of women’s cardiovascular health, and be sure to click on the video above for even more vital facts from Dr. Rambihar.
Women vs. men
- Women’s hearts and arteries are smaller, and plaque builds in different ways.
- Women may show different symptoms of heart attack.
- Women may experience different symptoms with a TIA (mini-stroke).
- Last year, 45 per cent more women than men died of stroke in Canada.
- Women who have had a stroke have worse outcomes than men; they experience lower levels of mental and physical well-being.
- Heart attacks are more deadly for women, and women are more likely than men to suffer a second heart attack.
Women-focused heart and stroke research projects
Sex differences in valvular heart disease
Mitral valve regurgitation is the most common form of valvular heart disease in North America. Left untreated, it can result in heart failure and increased mortality rates. While women are more likely to have significant mitral regurgitation, they are less likely to receive surgery than men, and when they do receive surgery, they have worse outcomes. The aims of the research are to explore sex differences in current recommended echocardiographic triggers for surgery in the management of chronic mitral regurgitation; to examine sex differences in cardiac remodeling before and after intervention and their implications on management; and to study the impact of the hemodynamic stress of pregnancy on cardiac remodeling and outcomes. This research will also consider the impact of pregnancy on mitral valve regurgitation.
Canadian Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection Genetic Study
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD) is the suspected cause of heart attacks in 25% to 40% of young women, in which the inner layers of an artery separate, resulting in impaired blood flow to the heart. SCAD often strikes young women who do not have the standard heart disease risk factors. Those who have had SCAD are also more likely to experience it again. Patients with diseases that weaken blood vessels walls are at higher risk for SCAD and many of these diseases are inherited. As the genetics behind SCAD have not been fully examined, this research will determine if SCAD is a genetic condition and what its genetic markers may be. The largest of its kind, this study will draw on subjects of the Canadian SCAD Study. DNA analysis will be conducted on samples from SCAD patients who have had heart attacks. In addition to looking for common genes linked to SCAD, the team will administer more specific testing on a subset of higher risk patients to uncover rare genetic markers.
Women at the intersection of pregnancy and cardiovascular disease
The main objective of this research is to measure how a woman’s health during her pregnancies affects her later risk of cardiovascular disease. This research will use a hospital admissions data base to identify a group of women who were ever pregnant and follow their data over time for any hospitalizations for cardiovascular disease. The researchers will look for pregnancy related outcomes including disorders of the placenta, birth defects in infants as well as postpartum depression, and use this information to calculate how cardiovascular disease risk changes based on a woman’s health during her pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum period. By exploring the understudied area of the connection of reproductive outcomes to heart disease and stroke, this research has the potential to identify a greater number of women that are at increased risk of later cardiovascular disease.
Heart and Stroke is, too, working to close the research gap between men and women. If you want to learn more and lend your support to their Women’s Campaign, join the #RedList here.