Older women are at a greater risk for heart diseases than men and their risk supposedly increases, as they grow older.
An astounding new study by the researchers led by demographers at the University of Southern California claims that women in their 60s have as many risk factors for heart disease if not more as men, and by their 70s they seem to develop more risks.
The findings that are set to appear in the current issue of the Journal of Women's Health, is quite contrary from the opinions of the previous decades where it was considered that older men were at greater risk for heart disease. The research now clearly shows over the last 10 years, older women are the risk targets while the men are doing better.
The findings also indicate that the risks for heart disease in women are still lower than men in their middle ages. But it is around the ages of 60 that the women catch up with the men, which is 10 years earlier than what was found to be before.
"Women are no longer protected from heart disease risk relative to men," said Eileen Crimmins, corresponding author and professor in USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. "Reports indicating that men are more likely to have more high-risk levels of blood pressure and cholesterol are no longer true in the U.S. population over 60 years of age."
Crimmins and her colleagues examined changes between 1988 and 2002 in indicators related to cardiovascular disease. The research team used data on men and women 40 and older from two broadly representative samples of the US population, approximately 10 years apart.
Among the findings:
High-risk blood pressure - both diastolic and systolic - increased in women but decreased in men. Medication against hypertension appeared to be more effective in men than women.
Both men and women saw a decrease in high-risk HDL cholesterol, but men showed greater improvement. The use of cholesterol-lowering medication increased somewhat more for men.
More women than men had high C-Reactive Protein (a marker of infection that in elevated levels has been shown to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease). This appears to be associated with increased use of hormone-replacement therapy, Crimmins said.
Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the U.S. Funding for the group's research came from the National Institute on Aging.