Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation is highlighting the gender gap in heart disease and stroke treatment with their new disease awareness campaign, #TimeToSeeRed. The national campaign seeks to improve awareness of heart disease and stroke among Canadian women, as well as accelerate research into better diagnostics and therapies for women.
“Unfortunately, it’s hard to fix problems you can’t see,” said Yves Savoie, CEO, Heart & Stroke. “So, we’re using #TimeToSeeRed to draw attention to the problem, so we can work together – public, health professionals, health systems and governments – to close the gap in women’s health.”
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, a woman dies as a result of heart disease and stroke every 17 minutes in the country. This makes it the leading cause of premature death* among Canadian women, however it’s not recognized as such and patients are often more concerned about less-deadly diseases such as breast cancer.
What’s more, heart disease and stroke research have largely focused on male patients, which means diagnostic tools and treatments have been developed to work for men. With new research suggesting that women are at-risk for developing these heart and brain diseases in a different way compared to their male counterparts, available diagnostics and therapies may not work as well for women. Today, two-thirds of all clinical trials investigating heart disease and stroke focus on male patients, leaving a significant unmet need for the other half of the population.
“Historically heart disease and stroke were viewed as men’s diseases,” said Dr. Paula Harvey, Director, Cardiovascular Research Program, Women’s College Hospital. “Research was based on the incorrect assumption that what worked for a man would work for a woman, but it’s not one-size-fits-all. We are now learning how women’s physiology and hormonal changes put them at risk for heart disease and stroke in ways that are different than men. This knowledge needs to make its way into better diagnostics, treatments and support.”
This week, Heart & Stroke hosted in-depth panel discussions called “SeeRed Talks” in which patients and physicians shared their stories of heart disease and stroke. While the first of these talks took place on April 25 in Toronto and Montreal, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada hopes to hold similar symposia in cities across the country.
“For nearly a decade, I had the signs of heart disease, but I let it slide,” said Natalie Deane, heart disease survivor. “I was told by doctors that it was anxiety or stress because a holter monitor didn’t detect a problem. It took years for me to be properly diagnosed, which could easily have been too late. I am honoured to share my story with Canadians to raise awareness for this important issue. I encourage all women to be proactive about getting the care they need.”
Heart & Stroke has also released a video to highlight how symptoms of heart disease in women are often misdiagnosed as something less serious. A social media campaign and print advertisements will accompany this disease awareness video, which will be shown at Cineplex theatres in Canada.
Canadian pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart is also supporting Heart & Stroke through the launch of its woman’s health initiative, “SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU.”
*Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article reported that heart disease and stroke were the leading cause of death among Canadian women.