When you hear the words ‘heart attack’, you probably picture a middle-aged man clutching at his chest, before falling dramatically to the ground.
For us women, this is a problem. A new report from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has highlighted an alarming ‘heart attack gender gap’, and it’s costing women our lives. BHF-funded research estimates that more than 8,200 women needlessly died over a 10-year period because the treatment they received was worse than that given to men.
It’s just yet another example of how dangerous everyday sexism can be when it comes to our health.
As a freelance health journalist, and founder of feminist health blog Hysterical Women, I see evidence of this danger all the time. There’s a growing body of research into the ‘gender pain gap’, showing that women’s health concerns are less likely to be taken seriously than men’s across a huge range of conditions. Gender bias in healthcare is complex, and deeply ingrained – ranging from the subtle and insidious, through to downright medical misogyny – but it’s time we urgently started addressing it.
Heart attacks in women are not rare. Coronary heart disease – which causes most heart attacks – kills twice as many women in the UK as breast cancer. Despite this, the misconception that only men are affected prevails. Sometimes, of course, it’s as simple as a lack of awareness leading to symptoms being missed in those who don’t fit that mould.