Women’s Health Research: Demanding Change for Older Women’s Health – The Critical Need for Data and Care

Rochester, New York – Medical research has long neglected the health of older women, leading to a lack of crucial information for physicians on how to best care for their female patients. The Biden administration recently launched the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research to address this issue.

Stephanie Faubion, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Center for Women’s Health, criticized the current state of research on older women’s health as inadequate. For example, many drugs commonly prescribed to older adults have mainly been studied in men, with the findings extrapolated to women.

One glaring issue is the assumption that women’s biology does not play a significant role in their response to medications. Faubion emphasized the need for the FDA to mandate the reporting of clinical trial data by sex and age to determine the effectiveness of drugs in women.

Research on Alzheimer’s disease drug Leqembi underscores the importance of considering sex differences in treatment outcomes. The drug showed varying effectiveness in men and women, raising questions about its efficacy for female patients.

The majority of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease are women, who are also more likely to have multiple medical conditions, disabilities, autoimmune illnesses, depression, and anxiety. Despite these challenges, women tend to outlive men and significantly outnumber them in their 70s and 80s.

Martha Gulati, a preventive cardiology director, highlighted the disparity in treating women with heart disease compared to men, citing delays in evaluations and inadequate care for conditions like hypertension. She stressed the need to address these biases in healthcare.

JoAnn Manson, chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, emphasized the importance of clear messaging and accessible interventions to reduce cognitive decline in older women. Factors like stress, hormonal changes, and underlying health conditions can significantly impact women’s brain health.

Studies suggest that older women are more vulnerable to anxiety and depression due to hormonal changes, stress, and gendered ageism. Researchers call for further investigation into effective treatments and interventions to support mental health in this demographic.

Supriya Gupta Mohile, director of the Geriatric Oncology Research Group, highlighted the need for improved cancer screening and treatment guidelines for older women, tailored to their individual health status. Current recommendations often fail to consider the diverse health needs of older female patients.

Bone health, functional health, and frailty are major concerns for older women, with conditions like osteoporosis posing significant risks. More research is needed to address these issues and develop better treatment options with fewer side effects for this demographic.

Overall, the White House Initiative on Women’s Health Research seeks to address the long-standing disparities in medical research and healthcare for older women. By prioritizing research on women’s health, particularly in the elderly population, we can improve outcomes and quality of life for older female patients across the country.