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.’
AdvertisementThe 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 proper diagnosis.
- 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.
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.