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Published on March 14, 2022

Fewer Women Take Part in Clinical Trials for Heart Disease

A Cone Health cardiologist takes to the national stage hoping more will be done to include more women.

Greensboro – A Cone Health cardiologist sees too few women in medical trials around heart disease. Dr. Kardie Tobb is raising the issue on a national stage. Her commentary has been published by American Heart Journal Plus: Cardiology Research and Practice. Tobb cowrote the paper with Drs. Madison Kocher from the Medical University of South Carolina and Renee P. Bullock-Palmer from the Deborah Heart and Lung Center.

According to the paper, despite cardiovascular disease being the leading killer of women worldwide, only 38% of research participants are women. This leads to medical advancements based on research done on men even though men and women’s hearts are structurally different.

For example, while men tend to develop blockages in large arteries, women tend to develop fatty plaques, which affects the smaller and narrower arteries. It takes less plaque to begin causing heart trouble in women than it does in men. That means the early stages of heart disease in women may be overlooked.

“One-in-3 women die of heart disease,” says Tobb. “I am inspired to continue to understand what we can do to impact this on a greater level.”

Tobb and her coauthors cite several reasons why the research gap exists. Studies find men are more willing to take risks than women and medical trials have an element of risk to them. Women are more likely to be caregivers and may see clinical trials as taking time away from those roles. And more men lead clinical trials than women. That lack of representation may also lead to fewer women enrolling.

Tobb doesn’t expect her commentary to change those overarching issues. But she is optimistic about changes from the bottom. “I hope this results in more understanding and more awareness among providers,” says Tobb. “I hope that my colleagues will educate women and break some of these barriers.”