Women’s heart and brain health advancing thanks to $10M research funding

Research networks will address risk factors, diagnosis and treatment of heart and brain conditions among women

Heart & Stroke, along with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Gender and Health (CIHR-IGH), are excited to announce the launch of a new funding opportunity, the Research Networks of Excellence in Women’s Heart and/or Brain Health. Two new research networks in Canada will be established, each receiving $5M in funding over five years, to better understand women’s risk factors for heart and brain conditions and to improve diagnosis and treatment of conditions more common among women or less well studied.  

The number one cause of premature death for women in Canada is heart disease and stroke, but gaps in research, diagnosis and care continue to threaten women’s heart and brain health. There is a persistent lack of awareness and understanding around women’s health, as two-thirds of all heart disease and stroke clinical research has focused on men. This research hasn’t accounted for the fact that women can face distinct risk factors for heart disease and stroke – and at different points in their lives.

“Our vision is to live in a world where all women receive the care they need when it comes to their heart and brain health. This starts by making significant investments in research that will drive health systems change and have tangible impact for women,” says Doug Roth, CEO, Heart & Stroke. “Heart & Stroke is excited to be working in partnership with CIHR-IGH and Canadian heart and brain researchers to transform the health system for women. We believe that care for women’s heart and brain health should be sex- and gender-appropriate, equitable, culturally relevant and safe.”  

“We’re all familiar with the classic movie scene where a man clutches his chest and falls to the ground, the unmistakable signs of a heart attack. But women’s heart attack symptoms are often not as dramatic—they can look very different from those of men. This is one example of how sex and gender science discoveries have improved diagnosis,” says Dr. Angela Kaida, CIHR-IGH Scientific Director. “We still have so much to learn about why women experience unique risk factors, or worse health outcomes for certain conditions. The Research Networks will help us investigate these crucial questions, bettering women and gender-diverse people’s heart and brain health.” 

Women’s health is understood in a variety of ways. For the purposes of the Research Networks of Excellence in Women’s Heart and/or Brain Health, and consistent with the National Women’s Health Research Initiative, the use of the term ‘women’s health’ goes beyond sex and gender binaries. It includes cisgender and transgender women, and gender-diverse people with shared health experiences who may not identify as women, including Two-Spirit, trans, non-binary, gender fluid, agender individuals and underrepresented genders.

One network will focus on women-specific risk factors for heart and brain conditions across life stages, while the other will address diagnosis and treatment of heart and brain conditions that are more prevalent among women and that have been under-studied. Both Research Networks will take an intersectional approach and integrate objectives and projects that will address health disparities among communities of women, including Indigenous communities.

Registration for this funding opportunity officially opens today, October 4, 2023 and registration guidelines are posted on Heart & Stroke's website. Registration will close November 30, 2023.

Funding for the Research Networks of Excellence in Women’s Heart and/or Brain Health has been made possible by Heart & Stroke, Canada’s leading health charity devoted to heart disease and stroke, and Canada’s federal funding agency for health research, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Institute of Gender and Health.

About Heart & Stroke

Life. We don’t want you to miss it. That’s why Heart & Stroke has been leading the fight to beat heart disease and stroke for 70 years. We must generate the next medical breakthroughs, so Canadians don’t miss out on precious moments. Together, we are working to prevent disease, save lives and promote recovery through research, health promotion and public policy. Heartandstroke.ca @HeartandStroke

About the CIHR Institute of Gender and Health

CIHR is Canada's federal funding agency for health research. Composed of 13 Institutes, we collaborate with partners and researchers to support the discoveries and innovations that improve our health and strengthen our health care system. The CIHR Institute of Gender and Health’s mission is to foster research excellence regarding the influence of sex and gender on health and to apply these findings to identify and address pressing health challenges facing men, women, girls, boys and gender-diverse people.

Website: Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Contact information 

Alicia D’Aguiar

CIHR Media Relations