Who does not know the obligatory rose for International Women's Day, which many employers distribute to their employees or organizations on March 8th on the street. I'm not happy about a rose like that, because instead of flowers that wither in the vase after a few days anyway, we should rather talk about the areas in which women will still be disadvantaged in 2023. For example in medicine.
Let's look at the most common cause of death in Germany: cardiovascular diseases. According to the Federal Statistical Office, 340,619 people died in 2021, 47 percent of whom were men and 53 percent women. Although cardiovascular diseases are so common in Germany, there is still a difference between men and women. Women are less likely to suffer a heart attack than men. However, they are also treated less frequently and their risk of death is significantly increased. This is shown by an analysis of data from the Federal Office, as informed by the German Society for Cardiology. One result: Between 2014 and 2017, 15 percent of women and 9.6 percent of men died of a so-called ST elevation myocardial infarction. Older age and age-specific diseases in women could play a role here. But also that heart attacks in women often go undetected. On average, they come to the emergency room with a heart attack two hours later than men.
A twinge in the chest that radiates down the left arm is likely to set off alarm bells for most people. A heart attack. But these symptoms are typically male. In women, they are more diverse and are often misunderstood by those affected - this can be fatal in the worst case. Shortness of breath, sweating, back pain, nausea, vomiting, pain in the upper abdomen, pulling in the arms, a feeling of pressure or tightness in the chest and inexplicable tiredness describe the variety of symptoms associated with a heart attack. Did you know right away? Or maybe you thought of a harmless upset stomach first? The fact that many people themselves or doctors do not correctly interpret the symptoms is due to a fault in the system. For a long time, the symptoms that women experience after a heart attack were classified as atypical because the man was used as a model. Only in the 1980s did it slowly become clear that women and men can have different symptoms and that a disease can take a different course. The heart attack and the discrimination against women in medicine are not isolated cases. In many medical fields, there is less data on women than on men. This lack of data is known as the "gender data gap".
This data gap can be dangerous for women. Until the 1990s, drugs were tested almost exclusively on men. And transfer the results to women, because it was assumed that biological processes are the same in men and women. As a result, some medicines for women are still overdosed today. Since then, women have also taken part in drug studies, but their share is often only around 30 percent. In the studies, men and women should be distributed in the same way as the diseases are distributed among the sexes, otherwise gender-specific differences in the reaction to or processing of active substances cannot be discovered. Another problem - in some studies, gender differences are not examined or mentioned at all: "We also analyzed clinical studies on Corona and found that gender was given little attention here, although it was known in society that men and women are affected differently. The gender-specific Analysis is still done too seldom today," says Prof. Sabine Oertelt-Prigione. She holds the first professorship for gender-sensitive medicine at Bielefeld University.
Even if the topic of gender-specific medicine has come more into focus in recent years and some points have changed legally since the 1980s, we have not yet reached our goal: women are still disadvantaged in medicine. According to Sabine Oertelt-Prigione, more women in research could bring about change. But real change will only be achieved when there are clear regulations. The expert suggested a solution: Only studies that take gender into account should be funded. And in areas with good data, results on gender differences should be listed. Targeted studies are also needed to close the "gender data gap". We women need political regulations that ensure that women can be treated just as well in medicine as men. So I don't want a rose for Women's Day, but more data and more research on gender-specific differences, so that a heart attack in women can be recognized more quickly or that we women can get all the medication in the right dosage.
Sources: BKK, Munich University Hospital, German Society for Cardiology, Heart Foundation, Quarks, The New England Journal of Medicine, Federal Statistical Office, NDR