I recently received an email asking us to help promote National Wear Red Day (February 2, 2007) which is part of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's "Heart Truth" campaign to make women more aware of the danger of heart disease. The campaign's goal is to "give women a personal and urgent wake up call about their risk of heart disease".
This is a worthy campaign and if you are inclined to wear red, go for it. But I think there is another "heart truth" that needs to be told. We didn't just magically find out a few years ago that heart disease in women typically follows a different course than it does in men (risk factors as well as diagnosis and treatment.)
We have this critical data because women's health activists, women Congressional leaders, especially Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Patricia Schroeder (D-Colorado), and members of the medical community led by Nanette Wenger, MD challenged the prevailing notion that women were "mini-men" and insisted that women be included in clinical heart study trails. Until the early nineties, men were the model subjects in most funded biomedical studies.
Medical and women's history buffs can check out the article "Coronary Artery Disease in Women: A Historical Perspective" by Joan L. Thomas, MD and Patricia A. Braus, MPH published in the AMA Journal of Internal Medicine (Feb 23, 1998) for more exacting details.
But the bottom line from their study: "Pressure from women concerned about the emerging knowledge about the adverse effects of heart disease in women helped to persuade a group of public officials of the importance of funding research related to women and heart disease."
Now that is the heart truth.