Carrie Fisher’s recent death has caused a lot of discussion about feminism, science fiction, role modeling, mental illness, and more. One thing that has been mostly left out is heart health. Since Fisher died of a heart attack, this should seem odd.
But it’s actually not unusual at all. We tend only to talk about certain parts of women’s health.
An article from Next Avenue about Fisher’s death prominently featured the following quote from Dr. Sharonne N. Hayes, a cardiologist and founder of the Women’s Health Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn: “Many women, because of the focus on reproductive health, on breast health, on breast cancer, they think that’s their biggest risk, and that is their main focus on health prevention.”
Actually, heart disease is widely cited as the leading cause of death among women. While Fisher’s significant weight loss for her role in The Force Awakens may well have contributed to the heart attack she suffered, her age and gender put her at risk regardless. The CDC further explicates: “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and white women in the United States. Among Hispanic women, heart disease and cancer cause roughly the same number of deaths each year. For American Indian or Alaska Native and Asian or Pacific Islander women, heart disease is second only to cancer.” (CDC source page)
Since clinical trials have focused on male bodies for decades and data reporting from clinical trials remains undifferentiated by gender (see Alana Baker’s smart work for more), women are incredibly vulnerable to a variety of health risks. A colleague and I are at work now on a chapter that shows just how much of work on women’s health is actually only about reproductive health–and it’s a LOT. (Thus far, we’re finding that about 75% of work on women’s health is about reproduction.)
So, as we’re remembering Carrie Fisher and all the important work she did in a variety of arenas, let’s also talk about women’s hearts.
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