Cardiovascular events: women first in the firing line

Wednesday16th May 2017 saw France 5’s regular health magazine programme ‘Enquête de Santé’ presented by Michel Cymes and Marina Carrère d’Encausse, broadcast a documentary by journalist Cécile Moirin called ‘Women’s cardiac health – warning: handle with care!’.


This documentary explores in detail the numerous ways in which women affected by cardiovascular conditions are short-changed in terms of their treatment. Appearing on the programme was geneticist Claudine Junien, who is fully committed to the cause of improving women’s cardiovascular health and a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the ‘Danièle Hermann – coeurs de femmes’ Research Programme created by our foundation. The documentary was followed by a debate in which participants fielded questions from the viewers.

Cardiovascular conditions are the number one cause of death in women in France, killing 8 times as many women as breast cancer. However, whilst people are scared of cancer, women all too often fail to guard against the threat from cardiovascular events./span>

The general public thinks of heart attacks as being a largely male phenomenon, but over the last 15 years, the number of women under the age of 50 hospitalized following a heart attack has trebled. Smoking, alcohol, stress and a lack of exercise are the main factors to blame. Women have adopted the same risky behaviours as men and these bad lifestyle choices are at the root of 80% of cardiovascular events. This situation has revealed a stark divide in how the sexes are treated, with women the victims of a number of injustices. Cardiovascular conditions are less likely to be spotted at an early stage in women, they generally receive treatment at a later stage than men and their recovery following a cardiovascular event is less successful. Almost two thirds of women who die of a heart attack have not previously exhibited any of the classic warning signs that may be precursors to such an attack. Women can exhibit signs that are not generally seen as heralding an impending heart attack, (fatigue, nausea, stomach pains…) which makes it less likely that they will receive the life-saving treatment they need. Another inequality revolves around the fact that woman suffer from more side-effects as a result of the medical treatment they are given, because most drugs are tested on men. After their cardiovascular event, they are less likely to be admitted onto a cardiac rehabilitation programme, of the type that is crucial to getting their lives back to normal.

Why is there so much gender inequality in the treatment of heart attacks? Why does it seem like women have fallen off the radar when it comes to cardiovascular preventive care?