'Add women & stir'--the biomedical approach to cardiac research!

Eur J Cardiovasc Nurs. 2004 Jul;3(2):119-27. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcnurse.2004.01.003.


In conditions shared by women and men, the biomedical model of disease assumes that illness-symptoms and outcomes are biologically and socially 'neutral'. Consequently, up until a decade ago, white middle-aged men were the model subjects in most funded cardiac trials, with the assumption that whatever the findings, the results would also hold true for women. This 'add women and stir' approach has resulted in imbalances in cardiac care and an image of coronary artery disease, which portrays a middle-aged male as its victim. Moreover, cardiac health care has been designed with the male anatomy and male experience of illness in mind, and health promotional measures have been targeted towards men. Women have received these health promotional messages to protect the hearts of men, and have been less likely to modify their own lifestyles in a cardio-protective manner. However, the biological and social differences that exist between women and men, must surely invalidate such biased biomedical assertions, and signify a need to delve beyond the realm of biomedical reductionism for greater insights and understanding. This review examines how scientific reductionism has failed to explore the impact of coronary artery disease on the lives of women and how the gendered image of this disease has privileged the normative frame.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Cardiology / organization & administration*
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / diagnosis
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / epidemiology
  • Coronary Artery Disease* / therapy
  • Cost of Illness
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration
  • Philosophy, Medical*
  • Prejudice*
  • Research / organization & administration*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Values
  • Women's Health*