One of the first things we learn about bodies is, of course, that women and men are different - that awareness is undoubtedly prehistoric. What remains remarkable is just how far we still have to go in our understanding of those differences, whether it's pain or heart disease.
This month, the Women's Heart Health program at Stanford celebrates the fifth anniversary of its pursuit toward a more delineated picture of heart disease in women. Interventional cardiologist Jennifer Tremmel, MD, is its founding clinical director. While she and other researchers in the field have uncovered some notable gender distinctions in heart health, their work hasn't led to a full understanding among all physicians of the unique symptoms and issues facing women. As Tremmel explained to me in a recent Health Notes story:
For years, the standard medical treatment for women with heart disease was based on what we know about heart disease in men. That’s really confounded things. In the past 30 years, we’ve learned a lot about how women differ from men, but there’s a lot we still don’t know. Just getting physicians to have a broader concept of symptoms, and what constitutes coronary artery disease in women, is a challenge.
In the same article I tell the story of one Stanford patient: a thirtysomething woman with chest pain whose doctors couldn't find anything wrong with her. “I intuitively knew something wasn’t right,” Reyna Robles said, and she was correct: As you'll see in the video above, she eventually saw Tremmel and was diagnosed with and treated for a myocardial bridge.