If You're a Woman Having a Heart Attack, You'll Want a Female ER Doctor

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Women who suffer heart attacks may face a 12 percent greater risk of dying if their care is entrusted to a male doctor, according to a new study reported by Scientific American.

Researchers think one factor in this disparity is the shortage of female physicians, who make up only a quarter of emergency room doctors in the U.S. For the study, published in the journal PNAS, the researchers analyzed a Florida Agency for Health Care Administration database that contained 19 years of records on heart attack cases from nearly every emergency room in the state.

They analyzed the statistical relationship between rates of death and four different physician-patient combinations: male doctors treating men or women, and female doctors treating men or women. The statistics were “indistinguishable except for male doctor–female patient,” the study’s co-author, Brad Greenwood, tells Scientific American.

They found that one out of every 66 women who has a heart attack will die in the emergency room if she is treated by a male doctor instead of a female one.

Although heart disease is the main cause of death in both men and women in the U.S., it’s often wrongly perceived as being a male disease, as well as an ailment that only affects the elderly. However, the disease kills about 15,000 women under the age of 55 each year.

Men are also more likely to recover from it. According to American Heart Association statistics from 2016, 36 percent of men die within five years of a heart attack, compared to 47 percent of women.

Other research has yielded similar findings. A study published in February found that doctors are more likely to ignore signs of a heart attack when they’re reported by young female patients as opposed to young male patients. This could be because the symptoms tend to manifest differently in women than they do in men, with female heart attack patients sometimes complaining of neck and back pains, fatigue, and nausea; because most studies have focused on men, their symptoms are seen as the standard ones.

As a result, many women wait before seeking help. “I can’t tell you how many women I’ve seen who say they felt something and wondered if it was a heart attack,” Harmony Reynolds, a cardiologist who specializes in women’s heart health, told the New York Post in February. “That inkling is there, but for some reason it doesn’t convert into action.”

For more information about the symptoms of heart attacks in women, visit the Go Red for Women website.

[h/t Scientific American]

FDA Recalls Thyroid Medications Due to Contamination Risk

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Hypothyroid medications manufactured by Westminster Pharmaceuticals have been recalled after it was discovered that one of the company’s Chinese suppliers failed to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards, CNN reports.

The oral tablets contain levothyroxine (LT4) and liothyronine (LT3), which are both synthetic hormones used to treat thyroid conditions.

The medicine was recalled as a precaution after it was discovered during a 2017 FDA inspection that the Chinese supplier in question, Sichuan Friendly Pharmaceutical Co., was not practicing good manufacturing practices.

However, patients with serious thyroid conditions shouldn’t throw out their pills just yet. No adverse effects from the medication have been reported, and the risk of not taking the medication outweighs the risk of taking a recalled pill.

According to the FDA, “Because these products may be used in the treatment of serious medical conditions, patients taking the recalled medicines should continue taking their medicine until they have a replacement product.”

For more information on the specific lots and products in question, visit the FDA’s website.

[h/t CNN]

A 'Zombie Gene' Might Be the Reason Elephants Rarely Get Cancer

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When it comes to cancer rates in the animal kingdom, elephants are an anomaly. As Popular Science notes, cancer should be more common among larger species, but with elephants, that simply isn’t the case. Only about 5 percent of elephants die from cancer, compared to 11 to 25 percent of humans.

In a new study, published in Cell Reports, University of Chicago researchers found what’s believed to be the genetic source of elephants’ cancer immunity. Elephants, like all mammals, have a gene called LIF that is known to suppress tumors. Humans have one copy of this gene, but elephants have 10 copies, which have developed over 80 million years of evolution. However, only one of those copies, called LIF6, is functional in elephants.

The other LIF copies are essentially dead because they lack a specific piece of DNA to make them function. At some point during the evolutionary process, the LIF6 gene copy turned back on, but scientists don’t know why or when this occurred. This “zombie gene” helps kill mutated cells, in true Night of the Living Dead fashion.

“This reanimation of LIF6 occurred perhaps over 59 million years,” Joshua Schiffman, who studies cancer in elephants but was not involved in the study, told Popular Science. “That’s an amazingly long period of time for nature to modify and perfect an anticancer mechanism.”

Scientists aren’t yet sure how this could be applied to cancer research in humans, but they say it’s a promising start and a creative approach to the problem. While these findings are still fresh and need to be duplicated, it raises the possibility of creating a drug that mimics the function of LIF6.

[h/t Popular Science]

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