A growing body of research suggests women receive different advice and treatment than men concerning their cardiovascular health.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death for women and men in the US. CVD affects the heart and blood vessels. Atherosclerosis, heart attack, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, and stroke are a few of the serious cardiovascular conditions for which patients seek treatment or advice on prevention. Symptoms of these diseases can occur and look differently in women than men—but research continues to suggest women may not receive the care and advice they need to support their health and lower their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Preliminary findings of a new study were presented at a conference of the European Society of Cardiology held in Singapore in December 2022. Using the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the research group examined 2017-2020 data for women and men ages 40 to 79 with no history of CVD. Of those, 2,924 patients had risk factors associated with CVD for which statin drugs could be recommended. Essentially, these patients had a one in ten risk of experiencing stroke or heart attack within a decade.
Statins can help patients at risk for CVD in several ways. The medications lower cholesterol, help reduce and prevent fatty vascular deposits, and can help keep existing fatty deposits or plaque from breaking off and causing a blood clot or stroke.
An object of the study was to evaluate how likely men and women were to receive a recommendation to take a statin drug. Although there is no evidence to suggest that preventative recommendations would be any different between men or women, study authors found women were 27 percent more likely to be told to lose weight, and 38 percent more likely to be told to exercise more. Women were also more likely to be told to cut their salt intake and follow a low-fat diet. Regarding statins, men were 20 percent more likely to be prescribed statins that women—for no clear reason.
Study lead Dr. Prima Wulandari of Harvard Medical School said, “Our study found that women are advised to lose weight, exercise, and improve their diet to avoid cardiovascular disease but men are prescribed lipid lowering medication. This is despite the fact that guideline recommendations to prevent heart disease are the same for men and women.”
If you have a CVD risk factor, speak with your physician about the right preventative options for you—regardless of gender.
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