As a pre-qualification exam graduate student, I have a full-time class schedule. As a part of my many class requirements, one that I am fulfilling this semester is general physiology. On February 1st in class we were ironically going over the cardiovascular system, which is also National Wear Red Day. Wear Red Day is an awareness campaign where women and men alike are encouraged to wear red in solidarity for women’s heart health. On this day at the University of Kentucky, where I am a graduate student, two professors in the Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences hosted the 5th Annual Healthy Hearts for Women Symposium. I know what you are thinking, “How does this relate to your physiology class?” Well, I volunteered and attended the event, however, I had to step out for an hour to attend my morning physiology course.
After spending weeks on basic heart anatomy and function, during this class period, we were finally moving on to cardiovascular pathophysiologies. On this day we learned many things but for some reason, the one concept that really resonated with me was the relationship between myocardial ischemia, atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction. Needless, to say it was a very interesting lecture. However, what made it even more interesting was the connection it had with the symposium. Upon returning to the symposium, Dr. Martha Gulati the Division Chief of Cardiology from the University of Arizona College of Medicine, was giving her talk on, “Women and Cardiovascular Disease: Is there really a sex difference?” I arrived late because of my class, but once I got settled into my seat you would never guess what slide she was currently showing — the development of a plaque in atherosclerosis! It was so exciting to me to have just learned this material and to now be in a talk describing the response of women in these disease states. Dr. Gulati brought up some very interesting points during her talk. Such as how the troponin levels during a heart attack in women are not always at levels comparable to men because women’s heart’s are smaller. When you think about it, you sort of say to yourself, “well yeah that makes sense,” however the sex-differences in diseased and even non-diseased states are not always apparent. When doing research, this is also why sex as a biological variable should be considered.
Overall, I would like to end with this quote that I felt summarized the post nicely: “In a generation that promotes equal opportunity for all genders, it’s crucial to not overlook the gender differences that affect health.” (Thompson 2019)1
For those of you conducting research, how are you incorporating sex into your studies?
- Thompson, Elizabeth. “UK Hosts Annual Symposium for Promotion of Women’s Heart Health.” UKNow, University of Kentucky, 30 Jan. 2019, uknow.uky.edu/uk-healthcare/uk-hosts-annual-symposium-promotion-women-s-heart-health.
Jacqueline Leachman is a student-scientist working diligently to complete her doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Kentucky, “Go Cats”! Her interests include nutritional implications in the developmental origins of cardiovascular disease and obesity, and health disparities. @JackieLeachman