How Gender Impacts Care: Four Takeaways from The Washington Post’s Women’s Heart Health Event

Heart health leaders discuss gender inequities in care, including the important role that LDL (“bad”) cholesterol management plays in preventing heart attacks and strokes.

For years, there were thought to be no major differences between women and men's heart health. However, research has uncovered that cardiovascular disease symptoms, risk factors and the quality and quantity of care, are vastly different for women and men.1 These disparities, paired with a broad lack of education and gender bias among clinicians, has positioned cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cholesterol management as an urgent concern for women.

Earlier this month, Amgen sponsored an event with The Washington Post to address important issues related to women's heart health, including treatment disparities, gender bias and policy implications. The event was held in Washington, D.C. and convened policymakers, public health leaders, patient advocacy groups and healthcare providers.

Four key takeaways from D.C.'s event include:

  1. Medical self-advocacy can be vital, especially for women.

    In one panel, "Addressing Gender Inequalities in Cholesterol Care," Celina Gorre, CEO of WomenHeart, and Latrice Baxter, an advocate and paid spokesperson for Amgen who lives with CVD, discussed the urgent need for healthcare professionals and women to prioritize LDL ("bad") cholesterol testing and management, and the importance of being a vocal self-advocate to improve women's heart health.

    Baxter shared her path to diagnosis, including open-heart surgery, as well as her experience living with CVD, and the harrowing journey it took to lower her LDL cholesterol. After building a care team, making lifestyle changes and finding the right combination of medications, Baxter now describes herself as "thriving." "My one wish would be that women understand that you can change your doctor," said Baxter. "You don't have to be stuck with someone who won't take you seriously."

    Gorre also named Baxter a WomenHeart Champion, recognizing the bold voice she lends to the CVD conversation and her work to emphasize the need for greater heart patient advocacy. "This experience will allow me to help others through their experiences with heart disease because I went through something similar myself," said Baxter.

  2. Strong voices make for impactful discourse.

  3. Additional panelists including Janet S. Wright, MD FACC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jennifer L. Ellis, MD, Association of Black Cardiologists, and Martha Gulati, MD, Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical, among others, discussed the lack of education for heart disease risk factors and cardiac event symptoms in women. "Women tend to describe more symptoms beyond chest pain," said Dr. Wright as she addressed the differences between men and women's reported cardiac symptoms. "[Women] may describe feeling short of breath, or [that] it's hard to get a breath. Many will describe nausea, sometimes the pain is radiating… Are [women] just more in tune with our bodies and more able to describe what we're going through as opposed to experiencing something that men don't experience?"

    Dr. Ellis went on to point out a common misperception that heart disease is greater in white men, when in fact women have a greater risk of heart disease, and that risk is even greater in women of color.2,3 "When I talk to [underrepresented] groups, I like them to have this mantra of, 'Could it be my heart?'" said Dr. Ellis. "When you say, 'Could it be my heart?' that's when you know what your cholesterol is, you know what your blood pressure is, you know what your family history is – these are the [risk assessment questions] that are at the absolute minimum."

  4. Gender bias is a significant problem in women's heart health – but solutions are on the horizon.

  5. In-person attendees of the event also had the opportunity to break into small groups for more in-depth discussions. One breakout session, How Gender Bias Affects Women's Heart Health Care, was moderated by Bethany Kalich, Asset Lead Medical Director, Amgen. Kalich's session, anchored in her familial and professional relationship with the disease, focused on the lack of understanding of CVD and its symptoms in women, as well as solutions that can help improve cardiovascular care for women. The group also discussed how patient story telling raises public and provider awareness about diseases, how organizations like WomenHeart can connect people with legislators that advocate for change in various communities and the critical importance of increased screening measures for CVD. "When we know better, we do better," said Kalich.

    Other breakout sessions focused on ways women can access and prioritize heart health care, especially new mothers with heart disease, as they are at a higher risk for adverse long-term cardiovascular events.4 Another session discussed how policies can help women and families secure more personalized CVD care. These dialogs furthered the discourse and empowered attendees with potential solutions to move the needle in the heart health space.

  6. Amgen is committed to shifting the paradigm for women's heart health.

    Occasions like the Washington Post's Women's Heart Health Event are uniquely important when it comes to bending the curve on cardiovascular disease. These events create an opportunity for stakeholders from across the healthcare landscape to come together to advance solutions for increased CVD care for women and drive urgency around the need for greater prioritization of LDL cholesterol testing and management.

For more information and resources on CVD and high LDL ("bad") cholesterol, check out


  1. Society for Women's Health Research. Improving Heart Outcomes for Women through Policy and Public Health Avenues. Accessed January 2024.
  2. American Heart Association. Women found to be at higher risk for heart failure and heart attack death than men. Accessed February 2024.
  3. Scripps. Heart Disease and Black Women: Risk Factors, Prevention Strategies. Accessed February 2024.
  4. Siu, SC, et al. Long‐Term Cardiovascular Outcomes After Pregnancy in Women With Heart Disease. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2021;10:e020584.

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