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Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK
Heart care 'biased against women'
blood pressure test
Women are less likely to get tests, according to the research.
Women are less likely to be given the correct tests or treatments to prevent heart disease, a survey of GPs suggests.

The report's authors say there is evidence of "systematic bias" favouring men.

In particular, men appear almost 50% more likely to receive the latest drugs aimed at reducing high cholesterol levels than women.

This is despite the fact that more of the women surveyed had a raised cholesterol level than the men.

The British Heart Foundation has condemned this kind of discrimination against women patients.

A spokesman said: "Coronary heart disease is not just a man's disease - in fact, it kills more women in the UK than any other disease."

The study was a relatively small one, focusing on just 18 GP practices in the Trent region, which covers a swathe of the country between Leicestershire and Yorkshire.

Medical records from a total of 5,891 men and women with diagnosed heart disease were examined to find out whether doctors treated women differently from men.

The differences were mostly subtle - but favoured men across the board.


Coronary heart disease is not just a man's disease

British Heart Foundation
More men had their body mass index - a measure of obesity - recorded in their notes, and doctors were also more likely to write down if they smoked, and take a blood pressure reading.

These are all measures which can help doctors predict if someone is at risk of heart disease.

Fewer women had their cholesterol measured by a doctor, and had a recorded diagnosis of high cholesterol levels written in their notes.

A far higher proportion of women had a high cholesterol reading, but only 21% of women in the study were prescribed statins to try to correct this, as opposed to 31% of men.

'No misconceptions'

The study's authors comment: "These differences suggest a systematic bias towards men in terms of secondary prevention of ischaemic heart disease."

Women who actually have recognised heart problems fare little better.

Other studies have shown that women with heart problems are less likely to be referred to a specialist and less likely to get a heart bypass graft.

The British Heart Foundation spokesman: "We believes that all heart patients, irrespective of their gender, age or ethnicity, should be treated as an individual case and receive the same quality of care.

"This new research reflects the need for both the general public and healthcare professionals to become more aware about the risks of coronary heart disease and the way that symptoms are presented - in men and women.

"It is also vital that GPs and nurses working in primary care do not have entrenched attitudes and misconceptions about women and heart disease."

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

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