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Why aren’t women equally represented in heart disease research?

I think it may have been multifactorial. Some research studies done a long time ago focused on veteran and military populations and women are underrepresented. And in general, heart disease in women was not given enough attention decades ago.

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The reasons women aren’t equally represented in heart disease research include:

  • Heart attacks used to be considered a man’s disease, so efforts were focused accordingly on middle-aged men. 
  • Women were thought to be fully protected by endogenous estrogen or hormone replacement into advanced age so early studies did not actively recruit this population. 
  • Women of childbearing age were considered a controversial population—scientists have been hesitant to test these women for fear of harmful repercussions on pregnancy.

Data also suggests that women are more hesitant to volunteer for participation in trials, possibly because women may underappreciate the true impact of heart disease on their health. There is also a potential social component to this dilemma. Many women feel too overextended with responsibilities in the home and workplace to commit time to participating in research studies.

Women aren’t equally represented in heart disease research for several reasons, including:

  • Heart disease continues to be perceived as a “man’s disease” by both the public and researchers so it’s less of a priority to study it in women.
  • Women are viewed as a vulnerable group. For instance, there are restrictions around including women of childbearing potential in research studies.
  • High costs of clinical studies make it hard to get enough study participants.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.