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Women and men may receive different advice for cardiovascular disease prevention

Dec 29, 2022

Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally. An estimated 17.9 million people died from CVDs in 2019, representing 32% of all global deaths.

A study has found that physicians often give men and women different recommendations for preventing heart disease.

Women are often advised to make lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating healthier, and exercising, while men are more likely to be prescribed medications to lower their lipid levels.

These findings, presented at the European Society of Cardiology Asia, highlight the impact of gender on how patients are counseled about heart disease prevention, despite the fact that the guidance is the same for both genders.

Dr. Mary McGowan, Chief Medical Officer of the Family Heart Foundation, emphasizes the importance of treating both men and women equally in terms of all available risk-reducing measures. She notes that failing to treat women with lipid-lowering therapy aggressively could lead to increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and suggests that men may be less likely to be offered lifestyle advice than women.

This is not the first study to show that men and women are treated differently when it comes to heart disease prevention.

A report from 2021 found that women often receive less aggressive or late preventative measures, which contribute to higher rates of cardiovascular disease. Previous research has also shown that women are less likely to receive key medications, such as beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors, to improve their cardiac health compared to men.

Another 2020 report found that being a woman is a higher predictor of in-hospital mortality among younger people admitted for acute myocardial infarction-cardiogenic shock. The new report adds to the evidence suggesting that women would benefit from earlier and more aggressive treatment.

Dr. Elizabeth Klodas, a cardiologist and founder of the Preventive Cardiology Clinic in Minnesota, notes that historically women have been underrepresented in clinical trials for heart disease prevention and care and emphasizes the importance of being proactive in preventing heart disease.

The researchers believe that the discrepancies in care for men and women with regard to heart disease prevention may be due to the mistaken belief that women have a lower risk of developing heart disease compared to men.

While heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, many women are unaware of this fact, according to recent research. Dr. Elizabeth Klodas emphasizes the importance of treating risk factors in women as aggressively as in men, stating that heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.

Dr. Mary McGowan adds that lipid goals are the same for both men and women and that anyone with cardiovascular disease should take statins. Both experts recommend lifestyle modifications such as avoiding smoking and eating a healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts to reduce the risk of heart disease. They also advise individuals with obesity to lose weight to lower their blood pressure, blood lipids, and risk of diabetes.

This study, along with past evidence, highlights the need to improve treatment and survival outcomes for women with or at risk for heart disease and to address the gender bias in heart disease prevention. Dr. McGowan emphasizes the importance of educating women about their lipid goals and empowering them to advocate for appropriate treatment and calls for medical students and young doctors in training to be taught to treat women as aggressively as men in terms of cardiovascular risk reduction.

Reference

  1. Heart Disease: Study Finds Women Get Different Medical Advice Than Men. [Cited: 23rd December 2022]. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/heart-disease-study-finds-women-get-different-medical-advice-than-men#The-bottom-line:

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