A new study involving 2,763 post menopausal women with heart disease has shown that doctors are under-using aspirin, beta blockers and cholesterol lowering drugs to treat these women even though the medications have been shown to prevent further heart attacks or other heart trouble. Though this study did not look at how often these drugs were offered to men, previous studies have shown that men and women alike are under-treated for heart disease, and women are treated even less aggressively than men. Dr. Michael Shlipak of the University of California, co-author of the study said that these findings could have many reasons including a lingering myth that heart disease is primarily a man's disease, doctors not using effective prevention methods and also the fear of side effects of preventive drugs in both doctors and patients.
In the study of the 2,763 women, all had suffered heart attacks or chest pain caused by blocked arteries, or had undergone bypass surgery or angioplasty. It was found by the researchers that only one third of these women who should have been taking beta blockers, were taking it and only half the women who qualified for cholesterol-lowering drugs took them. They said that even aspirin, which all of the survivors should have been taking, was taken only by 80 percent.
Dr. Naveed Malik, a cardiologist at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans, who was not connected with the study, said that a woman complaining of chest pain is often detected with heart burn, while similar symptoms in men might prompt doctors to think about coronary artery disease first. In an accompanying editorial, Drs. Andrew Miller and Suzanne Oparil of the University of Alabama added that the research highlighted the terrible discrepancy between what doctors knew about heart disease and how women with the disease were being treated. In conclusion, the article which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, said that this study should prove to be a wake-up call to physicians who need to more aggressively use appropriate drugs like aspirin, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors in women with heart disease.