A new study has found that women are significantly less likely than men to have their LDL cholesterol controlled to recommended levels.
Elevated LDL cholesterol is an important modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the leading single cause of death for both women and men.
The study titled 'Improving the Quality of Care for Cardiovascular Disease: Using National Managed Care Performance Data to Investigate Gender Differences in HEDIS Measures Related to Heart Disease', was conducted by a team of researchers including Margaret E. O'Kane and Ileana L. Pina at the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).
As part of the study, researchers analysed data from a national sample of 46 commercial managed care plans and 148 Medicare plans across 11 HEDIS(r) measures of care for cardiovascular conditions and diabetes.
Researchers found that the study showed equal or better outcomes for women on most dimensions of care except that of cholesterol control, where significant disparities existed between men and women.
The study also investigated disparities in care owing to race and income level, and found significant gaps in care.
The findings suggested that women and their health care providers underestimate risk for high cholesterol and heart disease, leading to poorer cholesterol control among women. The high cost of medications may also be secondary factor.
"This study highlights the importance of not just knowing your health, but also taking an active role in your care. The data show that we've got our work cut out for us in terms of raising awareness among both physicians and patients," E. O'Kane said.
"Women must know their risk for heart disease and how to manage it. These study findings show an opportunity to improve patient care for women and a reason to encourage women to consider seriously how to manage their risk factors, such as elevated cholesterol especially the LDL portion of cholesterol. The American Heart Association's Web site, GoRedForWomen.org, can help. It offers resources and tools for women to understand their risk and how to manage it," L. Pina said.
The findings of the study will be published in the May/June edition of Women's Health Issues of American Heart Association journal.