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Gender gap in treatment of heart disease

  The University of Michigan Health System reported this month that a gender gap continues to exist in the treatment of heart disease.

The authors' statistical analysis of data from 27,000 men and women demonstrated that women were more likely to report atypical symptomatology, and with similar levels of coronary artery disease, were less likely than men to receive standard treatments including beta blockers, statins, and ACE inhibitors.  Regardless of the seriousness of their blockage(s), women were less likely to receive angioplasty or a stent, and in cases of severe disease, were more likely than similarly afflicted men to have died, suffered an additional cardiac event or stroke within six months.

Kim Eagle, M.D., FACC, wondered whether women are more likely to suffer small vessel disease that does not show up in testing, or transient blockages that cause symptoms but disappear before they are fully investigated.  Her co-author, LIsa Jackson, M.D., suggested the need to educate women on the need to seek treatment and the need to educate physicians on the risks of apparently non-obstructive coronary artery disease.  They agree that coronary artery disease must be seen as a "whole-body" problem that must be managed or prevented through lifestyle changes [involving diet, exercise, smoking cessation and controlling blood pressure] and medication. 

In the meantime:  459,000 women die in the U.S. each year from cardiovascular disease: their leading cause of death.  Heart attacks strike 365,000 women each year [yes, that is 1,000 per day] and are fatal for 1 in 6 women.  There is a tendency to think of coronary artery disease and cardiac-related death as a "male" problem and it is not.

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