Time to bridge the gender gap, says Heart and Stroke Foundation



    OTTAWA, Jan. 31 /CNW Telbec/ - When it comes to heart disease and stroke,
Canadian women's progress has not kept pace with men's, according to the 2007
Heart and Stroke Foundation Annual Report on Canadians' Health. Research shows
that, compared to a man, a woman's risk of dying following a cardiovascular
event such as a heart attack or stroke is higher, women are less likely to be
treated by a specialist, are less likely to be transferred to another facility
for treatment, and less likely to undergo cardiac catheterization or
revascularization.
    "It's a real concern that women's heart health has not kept pace with
men's," says Dr. Beth Abramson, cardiologist and spokesperson for the Heart
and Stroke Foundation. "There has been some progress in closing the gender
gap, but when it comes to Canada's leading cause of death, there are women who
may be under-served on the front lines compared to men."
    For years, it was assumed that care differences occurred because women
tended to be older and sicker at the point they were hospitalized. But recent
analysis shows that even when you control for age and other health conditions,
a women's risk of dying within the first 30 days is 16% higher for heart
attack, and 11% higher for stroke, than a man's(1). The reasons for this are
unclear - contributing factors may be systemic, social, and biological - but
answers need to be found.
    Further, the Heart and Stroke Foundation reveals that for the first time
in 30 years, women have caught up to men when it comes to the number of deaths
from cardiovascular disease.
    In 1973, there were 23% fewer female than male deaths from heart disease
and stroke (34,924 female deaths vs. 45,404 male deaths). By 2003, the number
of male deaths had fallen (by 19%, to 37,004), while the number of female
deaths increased (by 5% to 36,823). For the first time, the number of deaths
from heart disease and stroke combined is virtually the same between women and
men (36,823 vs. 37,004). To view a chart showing the number of deaths from
heart disease and stroke for women and men between 1973 and 2003, click here:
www.heartandstroke.ca
    "Canadians have this cozy misperception that having a heart attack or
stroke is no longer a big deal - that you can be hospitalized, treated, and
return home good as new," says Dr. Abramson. "But the reality for a lot of
people - particularly for women - is very different.
    "Almost 37,000 Canadian women will die of heart disease and stroke this
year, and women have a higher risk of dying after a heart attack or stroke. We
need to better understand why, and this inequity needs to be addressed. This
is a serious health issue for Canadian women."

    
    Other findings include:

    - In 1973, there were twice as many male than female deaths from heart
      attacks (20,680 vs. 10,539). Although men continue to lead in heart
      attack deaths, by 2003, the gap had closed: male deaths dropped by 49%
      to 10,643 but female deaths had dropped only 24% to 8,019.

    - Not enough Canadians are referred to a cardiologist following a heart
      attack and women fare more poorly than men. Only 32% of women see a
      cardiologist after a heart attack, compared with 38% of men. Seeing a
      specialist is important - when you account for age and other
      conditions, the risk of dying is 47% lower for patients treated by a
      cardiologist(2).

    - In 1973, there were 10% more female than male deaths from stroke (8,523
      female deaths vs. 7,702 male deaths). By 2003, the number of female
      deaths from stroke had climbed to 8,951 while the number of male deaths
      dropped (to 6,332). As a result, in 2003 there were 41% more female
      than male deaths from stroke(3).

    - Studies have shown that at all ages, women have a higher in-hospital
      mortality rates following heart attack than men (see Table 1).

    - Women also have lower rates of undergoing coronary artery bypass
      surgery and angioplasty (a non-surgical procedure to reopen blocked
      coronary arteries; see Table 2).


                                    Table 1

          In-hospital heart attack mortality rate per 100 heart attack
                    patients by gender, 1997/98 to 1999/2000
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
                                     In-hospital mortality following a
        Age group                      heart attack (per 100 patients)
                             --------------------------------------------
                                                     Women          Men
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        20-49 years                                    3.1          1.6
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        50-64 years                                    5.9          3.9
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        65-74 years                                   12.6         10.3
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        75+ years                                     24.4         22.2
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Total (age 20+)                               16.7          9.9
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Source: Canadian Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Team


                                    Table 2

               Bypass surgery and percutaneous interventions per
           100,000 population aged 20+ by gender, 1997/98 to 2000/01
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
                               Rate of Coronary    Rate of Percutaneous
                                 Artery Bypass         Intervention
         Age group               Graft Surgery         (Angioplasty)
                             --------------------------------------------
                              Women          Men     Women          Men
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        20-49 years             0.3          0.9       0.9          3.4
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        50-64 years             7.9         40.4      21.9         98.1
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        65-74 years            64.6        300.2     117.4        396.5
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        75+ years             197.7        613.0     244.3        541.8
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Total (age 20+)       129.5        400.6     185.3        368.8
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Source: Canadian Cardiovascular Outcomes Research Team

    "We also need to look at access to care through a gender lens," says Dr.
Abramson. "Why are women less likely than men to be treated by a cardiac
specialist? And why are they less likely than men to have bypass surgery or an
angioplasty? This is an important piece of the puzzle."

    ILLUMINATING THE GENDER GAP

    A national survey of Canadians aged 35 and over conducted by the Heart and
Stroke Foundation found "two realities" when it comes to knowledge of heart
health and cardiac care. Women were acutely aware of the problems faced by
female heart patients and a woman's increased risk of dying. But many men have
not seen the light when it comes to the heart health of their partners,
mothers, siblings, or loved ones.
    Men still see heart disease as a man's disease. Over half (53%) of men
erroneously thought the number of heart and stroke deaths was somewhat or a
lot less in women compared to men (an error made by only 27% of the women
polled). Of those without a history of heart disease or stroke, 42% of the men
believed it was somewhat or very likely they would develop it at some point in
their lives but only 24% thought their partner or spouse would. Women, on the
other hand, were more realistic about their chances: 45% thought it was likely
they would develop heart disease or stroke and 43% that their partner would.


          Heart and Stroke Foundation Poll of Canadians Aged 35 and Over
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Realize that a Canadian man is more        Male       Female
        likely than a Canadian woman to:       Respondents  Respondents
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        ... be treated by a specialist after
        a heart attack or stroke(*)                 33%          46%
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        ... have surgery/procedure if diagnosed
        with heart disease(xx)                      33%          44%
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        ... survive a heart attack or stroke(*)     21%          38%
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        ... be referred to a cardiac
         rehabilitation program after a heart
         attack(xx)                                 28%          39%
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Think the number of heart and stroke
        deaths among Canadian women is somewhat
        or a lot less than that of Canadian
        men(*)                                      52%          27%
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Believe it is somewhat or very likely
        their partner or spouse will ever have
        a heart attack, heart disease,
        or stroke(*)                                24%          43%
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Believe it is somewhat or very likely
        they themselves will ever have a
        heart attack, heart disease, or stroke      42%          45%
        -----------------------------------------------------------------
        Results are from a nationally representative sample of 1,200 (margin
        of error +3.1%, 19 times out of 20); (*) difference between men and
        women is statistically significant p(less than).001; (xx) difference
        between men and women is statistically significant p(less than).01


    "Women and men need to realize that heart disease and stroke are equal
opportunity killers," says Dr. Abramson. "We need a proactive approach to
women's heart health in Canada. The gender gap can and must be closed."

    TIME TO ACT IS NOW, SAYS HEART AND STROKE FOUNDATION

    "The Heart and Stroke Foundation works on the issue of women and heart
disease on a number of fronts," says Sally Brown, CEO of the Heart and Stroke
Foundation of Canada. "Along with specific, targeted research and health
information, the Foundation is a leader in the development of the Canadian
Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan, which will improve the heart health of
all Canadians, but also specifically look at how to address gender and other
inequities."
    In 2000, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada led the development of
the Victoria Declaration on Women, Heart Diseases and Stroke - international
recommendations on how to ensure equity in heart health status between women
and men. Many of the key recommendations from Victoria have not been
implemented and are still relevant in 2007, including

    To governments:

    - Conduct ongoing population surveillance of women's health outcomes, and
      monitor and evaluate health services and community supports. (In fact,
      Canada lacks appropriate data and health information for the population
      as a whole and this must be improved.)

    - Address the key underlying socio-economic determinants of women's heart
      diseases and stroke - literacy and education, poverty, geography,
      women's roles and control over their lives, media, and equality of
      access to services.

    To research funding bodies and universities:

    - Expand research capacity to address the issue of heart disease and
      stroke among women.

    To the health care system:

    - Provide primary prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment,
      prevention of recurrence, rehabilitation and support programs, and
      services that are tailored to women's needs.

    To Canadian women and men:

    - Be aware of their risk for heart disease and stroke and the signs and
      symptoms of cardiovascular disease. Canadians should know their
      personal risk factors, and speak to their physician about their target
      numbers with respect to blood pressure, lipid levels, and glucose
      levels.

    - Play a proactive role in managing their own health, including eating a
      balanced, healthy diet that is lower in saturated and trans fats and
      that consists of at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per
      day, and aim to be physically active for 30 minutes or more on most
      days of the week.

    HOW IS THE HEART AND STROKE FOUNDATION ADDRESSING THIS ISSUE?

    - We're playing a leadership role in the development of the Canadian
      Heart Health Strategy and Action Plan, which will improve heart health
      for all Canadians, while specifically looking at how to address gender
      and other inequities.

    - We're developing a national information and awareness program to
      educate women about their risk of heart disease and the steps they can
      take to prevent them. The Heart Truth, which will be launched in 2007,
      is based on a very successful U.S. program that includes the well-known
      "Red Dress" media campaign.

    - We're funding gender-specific research across the country to better
      understand the differences in how men and women experience heart
      disease. The GENESIS project, with over 30 investigators across Canada
      led by Dr. Louise Pilote at McGill University, and co-funded by the
      Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Institutes of Gender and
      Health and Circulatory and Respiratory Health, is an excellent example
      that is already publishing important information.

    - We provide heart health information to thousands of Canadians every
      year, including information specific to women and heart disease.

    - The Foundation's Health Check(TM) food information program, with over
      1,000 products, is targeted primarily at women, the primary food
      shoppers in most families, to help them easily make healthy food
      choices for themselves and their families (see www.healthcheck.org).

    Heart and Stroke Foundation information on women's heart health and
healthy living can be found at heartandstroke.ca or by calling 1-888-HSF-INFO
(1-888-473-4636).

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads
in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the
advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living,
and advocacy.

    NOTE: This press release constitutes the Heart and Stroke Foundation's
Annual Report on Canadians' Health - there is no separate report document.

    Journalists may join the Toronto press conference by dialing
1-800-595-8550 and asking for the Heart and Stroke Foundation Press
Conference.

    B-roll will be available through CNW Group - at the listed times and
co-ordinates:

    Live Satellite Coordinates:

           DATE OF FEED:  Wednesday, January 31, 2007
           TIME OF FEED:  11:00 AM ET - 11:30 AM ET
           CO-ORDINATES:  Anik F2 C Band Analog
                          Transponder 3B
                          Audio subcarrier 6.2 and 6.8
                          Downlink Frequency 3820 vertical
           TOC            CFA TX 1


    PATHFIRE Digital Media Gateway Coordinates:

           DATE OF FEED:  Wednesday, January 31, 2007
           AVAILABLE AT:  11:00 AM ET for two weeks
           CO-ORDINATES:  Video Provider A, Digital Media Gateway, CNW Tab
           STORY NUMBER:  CNW07HSF1
           AVAILABLE AT:  11:00 AM ET for two weeks
           CO-ORDINATES:  Video Provider A, Digital Media Gateway, CNW Tab
           STORY NUMBER:  CNW07HSF1

    --------------------
    (1) Health Care in Canada 2006. Canadian Institute for Health
        Information, 2006.
    (2) Ibid.
    (3) Number of deaths, Statistics Canada.
    




For further information:

For further information: Sharon Edwards, (416) 489-7111, ext 482, (416)
937-5307 (cell), sedwards@hsf.on.ca; Elissa Freeman, (416) 565-5605 (cell),
efreeman@hsf.on.ca; Jane-Diane Fraser, (613) 569-4361, ext 273,
jfraser@hsf.ca; For provincial media contacts: see "contact us" at
www.heartandstroke.ca/media


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