In celebration of Women’s History Month, we want to take a look at how heart health in women has evolved over the years. As is the case in many other fields, women have been historically underrepresented in cardiovascular health – both in research and as providers.
The Evolution of Women’s Heart Health
Despite the fact that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, it has historically been thought of and studied as a men’s disease. There was no research about women, no protocols for how to treat women, and no heart education for women. Did you know that the heart attack symptoms for women are different than for men?
At best, this was sheer ignorance: women have often been excluded from clinical trials, since varying hormone levels provide inconsistent data. At worst, women were denied life-saving care: female patients who came into the emergency room complaining of chest pains were often turned away and told they were just having anxiety. For something as critical as cardiovascular care, this was a public health crisis.
But things have been steadily improving over the last few decades. In 1999, the American Heart Association published the first gender-specific clinical recommendations for heart disease in women. Today, there are now resources for education, prevention, early recognition, and detection of heart disease for women and men, respectively.
Additionally, the FDA now mandates that women have to be represented in clinical studies. This is a massive step forward, but there is still a long way to go. We have not yet seen a universal guideline-based treatment for women with heart disease, and we have a lot to learn in research and clinical studies.
Trailblazers in Heart Health
For being underrepresented in the field, women sure have made massive contributions to our current knowledge of heart health. Below are some of the most notable players:
- Dr. Maude Abbott invented an international classification system for congenital heart disease in 1936
- Dr. Myra Adele Logan became the first woman to operate on a human heart in 1943
- Dr. Helen B. Taussig developed the operation to correct “blue baby syndrome” and founded the discipline of pediatric cardiology in 1944. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom from LBJ in 1964, and became the first female president of the American Heart Association one year later.
- Dr. Olga M. Haring became the first female fellow of the American College of Cardiology in 1956
- Dr. Edith Irby Jones founded the Association of Black Cardiologists in 1974
- Dr. Elizabeth O. Ofili became the first female president of the Association of Black Cardiologists in 2000
- Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel became the first female director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood institute in 2005
To all of the women shattering ceilings and contributing to our knowledge of heart health: at AED.US, we see you, and we thank you.
AHA. “American Heart Association.” https://www.heart.org/en. 30 March 2021.
Written by Blaire Czarniecki
Customer Service Director
Fact checked by Phillip Woods, BA, NREMT-P, FP-C
Blaire attended the University of Tennessee where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology- Child and Family Studies. She has been in the AED industry for 8+ years and is the Director of Customer Service for Coro Medical. Blaire is also an American Red Cross-certified CPR/AED/First Aid Instructor, highly trained by each manufacturer on their specific AEDs, and knowledgeable regarding ALL State AED regulations and legislation.
Last updated March 30, 2021