Improving Gender Equity in Medical Research
July 28, 2015, 4:00am

Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, WHA Scientific Advisor, Letter to the Editor

Why Science Needs Female Mice (editorial, July 19) is a slam-dunk, drawing much-needed attention to the lack of female subjects in disease research.

The lack of gender equity is especially problematic when looking at heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer of women. Only 35 percent of participants in heart-related studies are women, even though heart disease kills more women than men.

Heart disease often looks very different in women than men because our hearts are biologically different and our symptoms — fatigue, shortness of breath or nausea — can be more subtle than those in men. The lack of awareness among women and physicians about our differences often leads to misdiagnoses and untreated disease.

For decades, heart disease has been studied in men, for men and by men. Until we address this problem, we will continue to see heart disease kill one woman every minute. That’s more than all cancers combined. My colleagues and I at the Women’s Heart Alliance commend the editorial board for spreading awareness of this issue.

Los Angeles

The writer is director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute and scientific adviser to the Women’s Heart Alliance.