While many people incorrectly think of heart disease as a ‘man's disease', a new study has found that male GPs may also fall into this category.
According to the findings, male GPs are more likely to think of heart disease as a ‘man's issue' and neglect to assess risk factors in female patients.
"Cardiovascular mortality has fallen more in men than in women. We know that men receive better cardiovascular care and secondary prevention after a first event. We hypothesised that primary prevention might also be better in men," explained the study's lead author, Dr Raphaëlle Delpech, a GP at Paris XI University in France.
As assessment of a patient's risk factors is the first step in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease, the researchers looked at the influence of GP gender and patient gender when carrying out these assessments.
The study included 52 GPs and over 2,200 patients.
The researchers found that information on smoking, cholesterol and blood glucose was reported less often in the female patients' files and because of this, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease could not be assessed as often as for the male patients.
"GPs were less likely to collect information on smoking, blood glucose and cholesterol in female patients, making it impossible to assess their cardiovascular risk.
"Guidelines recommend screening for cardiovascular risk factors in men and women, but it appears that GPs are more attentive to these factors in their male patients," Dr Delpech said.
However, the study found that these gender differences in risk assessment were not as substantial when the patients were seen by a female GP.
The female patients of female GPs could have their cardiovascular risk assessed 28% less often because of incomplete information. However among the female patients of male GPs, this figure rose to 44%.
"The patients who were least well assessed for cardiovascular risk were women seen by male GPs. We think that female GPs follow guidelines more routinely and are less likely to vary their practice, especially according to their patients' gender," Dr Delpech said.
She added that she thinks most GPs ‘will be surprised by our findings', but she hopes it will lead to more equal assessments of risk factors in male and female patients.