- The global community at large is inclined to believe that women are not prone to be afflicted with cardiovascular diseases, unlike their male counterparts. This belief is not restricted to the general public alone but strangely, the medical fraternity too believes the same. The perception is so deeply-embedded that to alter the same, something dramatic had to happen, and that too involving no less than a known personality or a public figure to boot. Nonetheless, how many such cases come to the fore with candid admissions or announcements about the illness? Most of the known personalities/celebrities wish to keep their illnesses under wraps for fear of losing out on lucrative offers and assignments. Cannot blame them, you see.
- Did someone say there exists a severe lack of awareness about the topic locally, nationally, and globally? Undoubtedly, it’s a most common human trait to not go public with whatever illness afflicted for fear of social stigma, including the potential loss of opportunities career or otherwise. Moreso, for women who tend to be still treated as second citizens as yet in a patriarchal society, breaking the ceiling of male dominion poses definite challenges. Not easy to overcome. The moot point to ponder over is why the belief exists about women being less prone to heart failure in the first place. It is largely inferred because of women’s so-called estrogen advantage. Is this perceived notion backed by indisputable scientific evidence? None at all.
- Even by this logic, the hugely increased vulnerability of post-menopausal women should have gotten them a lot more extra care than they ever received. More recent research findings that even younger women are at growing risk have not percolated wider either. This is what explains why when actor Sushmita Sen shared that she has had to undergo angioplasty, much public surprise centred on her age. Scientific advances are meant to ensure that biology isn’t destiny, but they can only deliver if they are incorporated into real-life practices. As a Lancet global commission has emphasised, despite being responsible for causing 35% of deaths in women each year, their cardiovascular disease remains understudied, under-recognised, under-diagnosed, and under-treated, with women also under-represented in clinical trials.
- Indeed, there is a lack of awareness and active neglect at multiple levels, from women’s families taking their symptoms less seriously, to researchers paying far less attention to the female body, to doctors providing women with much less thorough evaluations. Remember, all of these prejudicial practices can be reformed. The American Heart Association highlighted how an increase in awareness and evidence-based treatments had helped in a dramatic decline in mortality. While the situation is still not ideal even in the US, what India must note is that women’s heart disease is now missed/dismissed at much lower levels. Let’s understand that a similar mindset change here shall deliver disproportionate gains in women’s and social health.