In medicine, we often speak in broad terms, such as, “A team at the Technical University of Munich found that women are 1.5 times more likely to die in the first year after a heart attack than men.”3 This type of data helps researchers like me to see the big picture. But it doesn’t speak to the human aspects of this higher mortality rate or the pain that these women and their families experience as a result.
I want to be clear that, although this book does look at broad-scope issues, you are not a statistic. You and the women you love matter. Your health matters. And your feelings matter.
I see the human cost of heart disease, stroke, pain disorders, neurological conditions, and trauma every day in my emergency department. I see the pain of families who have lost a mother, a sister, or a daughter to conditions that disproportionately affect women. I see women desperate for someone to listen to them, to believe them, because our male-centric medical model has classified their very real symptoms as “psychosomatic,” “nonspecific,” or “idiopathic” (meaning, of unknown origin).
I wrote this book not for our medical community but for you and the women you love. I want you to know and understand the differences in physiology that set women apart from men in ways that are more than just skin deep. And I want you to take this knowledge with you into your life and into your doctors’ offices so that you too can be part of this medical revolution. Your contribution is crucial.
When you know how to ask the right questions, you can work with your providers to get the right care. Communication is a two-way street. We are no longer in the era of “doctor knows best.” Yes, we physicians have dedicated a major chunk of our lives to understanding the human body and how it works—but in the end, no one knows your body better than you. With the tools in this book, you will become a partner in your own health care, and your provider will become not a dictator but an educated consultant who can help you decipher what’s happening in your body and create a plan to address it. You can employ modern medicine in the way it was meant to be employed—as a tool for discovering, treating, and ultimately healing the physical and mental conditions that affect us as human beings.
What Matters—Your Key Takeaways
• Our male-centric medical model impacts women’s health every day.
• If you are a woman, you are at greater risk of misdiagnosis, improper treatment, and complications in common medical situations. To ensure that you receive the treatment you need and deserve, you need to understand how your body behaves differently from a man’s and how to ask the simple questions that can mean the difference between a faulty or delayed diagnosis and lifesaving treatment. This book will show you how to do that.
• The most powerful tools for change in this arena are awareness and advocacy. Knowing how to ask the right questions can mean the difference between getting the treatment you need or being misdiagnosed, undertreated, or otherwise impacted by male-centric medicine.