Nailing Down Gender Differences in Heart Disease

Study finds specific measures don't predict outcome identically between women, men

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TUESDAY, Dec. 16, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- More information about the differences in heart disease between women and men is found in analysis of a major treatment trial that made an effort to enroll more women than usual.

"We've just assumed that women will respond the same as men do, and we took it as a fact that if men responded, then women would have the same response. I think that's a mistake and, to me, that's the main message from this study: that we should look at women differently than men," researcher Dr. Jalal K. Ghali, of the Cardiac Centers of Louisiana, says in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues analyzed data about 2,708 heart failure patients, including 593 women, who took part in a clinical trial of a heart disease drug.

The details appear in a study in the Dec. 17 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The analysis revealed that:

  • For each 1 percent increase in heart pumping function, there was a 1 percent decrease in death in men, but for women this reduction in death was 4 percent.
  • The presence of coronary artery disease was associated with a 1.5-fold increase in the risk of death for men, but a 2.5-fold increase in the risk of death for women.
  • Women had lower rates of atrial fibrillation, lower levels of plasma norepinephrine (also known as noradrenaline), faster heart rates and a higher prevalence of left bundle branch block (a type of electrical abnormality of the heart).

"We concluded that in this study the measurement of the squeezing function of the heart and the presence of coronary artery disease appear to be more strongly related to outcome in women than in men," Ghali says.

The analysis revealed that, overall, women with heart failure in this study had better outcomes than men. But that survival advantage was evident only in women whose heart failure was not caused by heart attack.

The findings are important for heart failure researchers and doctors treating women with heart failure.

"These data indicate that information collected on men with heart failure cannot be assumed to apply similarly or with the same magnitude to women, emphasize the importance of accounting for these differences in designing clinical trials, and highlight the need for both stratifying entry by gender and enrolling more women in heart failure trials," the researchers write.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about heart disease and women.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, news release, Dec. 16, 2003


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