‘Women-focussed’ rehabilitation advice has been designed to try to engage more women with cardiovascular disease and improve their outcomes.

It is well known that on the whole, women suffer worse cardiovascular disease outcomes and are less likely to engage with prevention and rehabilitation programmes.

In response, experts have now developed clinical practice guidelines to help those working in cardiac rehabilitation deliver programmes that are more women-focussed and more effective.

The team was brought together by the International Council of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, and the guidelines have been endorsed by 24 clinical societies around the world.

Lead author Professor Sherry L. Grace, from York University’s Faculty of Health and KITE-Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, University of Toronto, said: “It has long been established that women are significantly less likely to access and complete cardiac rehab, and that their outcomes are often poorer, despite greater need than men.

“Accordingly, ‘women-focussed’ models of cardiac rehab have been developed to better engage women and optimise their outcomes. There is now sufficient evidence on women-focused cardiac rehab to make recommendations to the cardiac rehab community.”

Globally, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women, with death rates rising in a number of African, Asian and Western-Pacific countries.

The new guidelines are aimed at reducing death and hospitalisation, and improve function, psychosocial wellbeing, and quality of life.

The key recommendations include:

  • A systematic referral process, with women encouraged to attend rehab before hospital discharge
  • When developing tailored rehab plans, considerations should include mental health and psychosocial issues, menopausal status, frailty, cancer history, concerns about urinary incontinence and falls risk/osteoporosis
  • If resources are limited, programmes could include women-only virtual education or exercise sessions or peer support
  • Choice offered in terms of centre-based or home-based settings, delivered in a women-friendly environment
  • Programmes should include a strong psychosocial component, choice of exercise and specific education on women and cardiovascular disease.

Professor Grace said: “For the first time, there are a consensus definition and recommendations for women-focused cardiac rehab, so it is hoped now that many programmes will incorporate these elements into their programmes.

“If implemented, more women may engage in cardiac rehab, and as a result have significantly greater quality and quantity of life.”

The guidelines were developed following input from women-focused cardiac rehab researchers around the world. Many came from Canada, which is considered to be a leader in this area.

The study has been published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.


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