Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Women's heart disease still poorly understood
As wives and girlfriends and sisters and friends worry that the men in their lives who smoke, eat big steaks and covet the couch will have a heart attack, I'm going to let you in on something the American Heart Association says fewer than one in five doctors know:
Heart disease kills more women than men.
The statistics are a study in superlatives.
Women are six times as likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer.
Heart disease kills more women older than 65 than all cancers combined.
And that has Dr. Sharonne Hayes, director of the Mayo Clinic's Women Heart Clinic frustrated.
"We need to be able to tell women whether the diagnostic tests we order are accurate and how treatments will affect them, but today we don't have enough data specific to women," says Hayes. She's just published research showing sex differences continue to be poorly understood.
She attributes it to the fact that far fewer women are included in clinical trials, and even when they are included, study results are not sex-specific.
-Men and women respond differently to certain heart medications.
-Even aspirin affects men and women differently: In women, aspirin therapy seems to reduce the risk of stroke more than in men, while in men it reduces the risk of heart attack.
-A woman may experience different heart attack symptoms. Men and women are both likely to feel chest pain, but women may also feel it in their neck, back or abdomen.
-Depression affects women's hearts more than men's.
-Smoking is much worse for women than men.
Doctors don't fully understand it yet but suggest hormones, particularly estrogen receptors in the heart, may play a role.
For both sexes, heart disease is often avoidable. Don't smoke. Maintain your weight. Get regular blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.
And knowledge helps.
Everyone from the Dr. Hayes to the first lady of the United States to our own Paula Zahn will be wearing red this Friday ... it's the American Heart Association's "National Wear Red" day to raise awareness.
So when you see people in red, remember: More women than men die of heart disease.
Pass it on.
Will you be wearing red to support heart disease awareness? Send us an i-Report by clicking here.
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