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May 23, 2016

Equally Aggressive Treatment Needed for Men and Women with Heart Disease

While risk factors may differ, study findings suggest plaque build-up in arteries is just as dangerous in all patients.

Men and women need equally aggressive treatment for heart disease, based on a recent study that found the same amount of dangerous plaque build-up in the arteries in men and women with heart disease.

Published in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging, this study used imaging tests to compare the arteries of men and women with heart disease. Clogged arteries greatly increase risk for heart attack and stroke.  While heart disease can differ between men and women, few studies have explored differences in plaque build-up between men and women.

To learn more, researchers collected data from patients at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. The study included 383 patients already diagnosed with heart disease who underwent imaging to assess the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Researchers also collected information on cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes, which significantly increase risk for heart events.

After analysis, researchers found that women with heart disease tend to be older and have more cardiovascular risk factors than men living with heart disease. On average, women were 66 years old compared with an average age of 62 in men. Women were also significantly more likely to be obese, diabetic and have high blood pressure compared to men. However, there was no difference in plaque characteristics between men and women with heart disease.

Based on findings, authors highlight the importance of equally aggressive treatment for heart disease in men and women. Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women in the United States. While risk factors may vary among men and women, findings suggest plaque build-up is equally as dangerous in all patients. Therefore, authors believe that aggressive efforts are needed to help prevent heart disease and reduce risk for heart events in men and women.

Read the full article in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is atherosclerosis?
  • Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries caused by the build-up of fat and cholesterol on the artery walls. Atherosclerosis can lead to serious health problems, such as heart attackstroke and even death.
  • How is atherosclerosis treated?
  • Treatment for atherosclerosis may include lifestyle changes, medication and/or medical procedures, depending on the severity of plaque build-up in the arteries. Lifestyle changes like eating healthy, staying activequitting smoking and reducing stress can help reduce risk of complications from atherosclerosis. Certain medications like cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering drugs may also be prescribed to slow the progress of plaque build-up. If atherosclerosis is severe, certain procedures may also be recommended to open blocked or narrowed arteries.

Featured Video

Dr. Anne R. Albers, FACC, presents at a Living with Chronic Angina event in Columbus, Ohio in Oct. 2014.

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