AHA releases statement detailing differences between heart disease in men, women
The AHA recently released a scientific statement on the subject, which was published in Circulation, one of the organization's journals. The statement was compiled after researchers analyzed data from studies about how social norms and differences between the sexes dictated the methods used to treat patients with ischemic heart disease.
“Women’s death rates from heart disease are beginning to decline a little bit, but still at a slower pace than men,” Jean McSweeney, associate dean of research at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, said. “There have been small studies conducted, and women have been included in some larger studies, but due to limited numbers of women, most data cannot be analyzed by sex or gender.”
Despite the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, McSweeney said, the treatment they receive is not in keeping with medical guidelines. This could be due to the fact that women present differently than men do as far as heart disease symptoms go. As a result, women are frequently misdiagnosed.
Furthermore, while 19 percent of men who have a heart attack will die within a year of the event, that number jumps to 45 percent for women.
“Some clinicians try really hard to make diagnoses, but it’s hard to get the information because you have to hunt for it,” McSweeney said. “We’re hoping this can be a wonderful guide with a lot of references for them to find answers.”
The release of the AHA statement was lauded by health care providers.
“Women need to think about their symptoms and take them seriously, and nurses and doctors should not discount a patient just because she’s a 35-year-old and otherwise healthy,” Melissa Wood, a Massachusetts cardiologist, said. “There are set differences in our hearts, in our blood vessels and in our brains, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all problem or solution.”
Other major findings in the statement include discovering that female smokers are 25 percent more likely than male smokers to develop ischemic heart disease, and that women who suffer from high blood pressure during pregnancy are at a higher risk of heart attack and other cardiac events.