So let's get to the heart of the matter. Coronary heart disease is one of the leading causes of
morbidity and mortality in both men and women. Many studies have been conducted
in the past to try and understand the sex/gender differences when it comes to
cardiovascular disease (CVD) and it has been seen that CVD is not as rare in
women as previously thought.
Cardiovascular disease has been reported to cause death in as many as 340,000 women annually.
Also, studies have revealed that more number of women are likely to die in their first year following a heart attack compared to men. It is quite alarming to note that as high as 64 percent women who die suddenly from a heart attack exhibit no prior symptoms.
‘Heart disease is reported to be the leading cause of death in women in the United States with a mortality rate three times higher than that of death from breast cancer and lung cancer.’
The reasons for the gender
differences could be many:
- Women differ from men in their
symptoms, diagnosis as well as treatment. Even though the reason for this
is not fully understood, it is thought that women tend to be verbose when
talking about their medical history with their physician and they
sometimes skirt the important symptoms which could have otherwise led to
- As compared to men, women are less
responsive to clot-busting
drugs as well as various medical procedures, which are used to treat heart disease.
- Since women have smaller coronary arteries than men, performing heart procedures on them becomes quite difficult and challenging for the surgeon.
- Women are likely to have more
complications from corrective surgeries such as angioplasty and coronary bypass surgery.
- Women smokers are reportedly twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack as compared to male smokers. Statistics from a Harvard publication reveals that women are less likely to give up smoking or relapse into the habit after they stop smoking.
- Menopause can cause a series of unwanted effects in women including high triglycerides and low levels of good cholesterol, leading to cardiovascular diseases.
- Diabetes too increases the risk of heart diseases in females much more than in males and although on an average, women usually develop heart diseases almost a decade later than their male counterparts, diabetes nullifies this edge that they have.
Dr. Rita Redberg, Head of the
Women in Cardiology Committee for the American Heart Association commented,
"There's so much about women and heart disease that's undiscovered. We don't
have the answers yet."
The lack of
gender-specific safety and effectiveness studies is a barrier to optimal heart
disease care in women. However, awareness
of the fact that heart disease affects women in different ways than men could
help women in the prevention of the disease as well as to get timely treatments
for the same.