It was on websites from Canada to South Africa, all across the European Union, Russia, and Asia. I can’t be accused of hyperbole by writing that the death of American actor, James Gandolfini, was a world-wide story. I’ve never seen the Sopranos, but that’s not what this is about. How does someone so widely known, so (relatively) wealthy, die from a heart attack? Did he never go to a doctor for a physical? The thing is, it happens to everyone regardless of how popular, rich, and famous you may be. It happens to men far more often than it does women.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation in Canada has a series of ads running on TV with famous TV personalities talking about staying healthy, as well as an ad contrasting the last years of an elderly man between an active life and one spent in intensive care. We all have to die of something and if you live to be over 70, a heart attack is likely going to be your official cause of death.
Heart attack and stroke are two of the three leading causes of death in Canada according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The ten-year average for men and women is just under 72,000 deaths per year. Men, however, are dying at significantly higher rates in all age groups as shown in the graph.
The Statistics Canada graph shows that in the 34-49 year old age group, men die 249% more often than do women from cardiovascular disease. In the 50-69 year age group men die 261% more. Perhaps it’s a coincidental curiosity that on the Heart and Stroke Foundations statistics page, women are referenced in reports and studies, 164% more often than men – 23 times vs. 14 times – yet as victims of fatal heart disease, they are a minority. It would seem that men are failing to make their health an issue in light of the facts. Or is it that more money is being channeled into studies on female victims of heart disease? Perhaps men just don’t care if they die, though you’d think that their loved-ones would care enough to become involved by pressuring governmental decision makers, or a voters lobby, to create initiatives like ‘Men’s Heart Day’ – as an example. It would also help a bit to top up the disparity that exists in official recognition days between the genders; official ‘women issue days’ outnumber ‘men’s issue days’ in Canada by 8:3.
Gandolfini was 51 years old when he died of a heart attack, putting another number in the anonymous and highly probable age bracket for major cardiovascular disease mortality among men. It seems evident that women are better at organizing, or being vocal about health issues that pertain to them…far more so than men. If men won’t look after themselves then that cost is passed on to society. Thus it’s not so much of a gender issue as a social one, which has devastating impacts on the lives of men, women, children, families, and Canadian society as a whole.
The statistics section of the Heart and Stroke Foundation needs to reflect on good governance, not the organizational capacity or vocal range of women in society, as it appears to do now. This would mean that men were cited on the statistics page at 37 times to 14 for women, as opposed to its inverse of 23 to 14 in favour of those who are least likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Such a ratio would reflect the mortality rates as shown in the graph above, and hopefully reduce the deaths for both men and women. It’s not clear exactly how stress is linked to heart disease, but what is it about society that is causing men to die from cardiovascular disease at rates over 250% more than women?