U.S. Women Lagging Behind Men for Cholesterol Control

Doctors might underestimate the threat to females, researchers say

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WEDNESDAY, May 16, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Women in the United States are much less likely than men to have their LDL ("bad") cholesterol controlled to recommended levels, a new study finds.

Elevated LDL cholesterol levels increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States.

Researchers at the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) looked at 11 measures of cardiovascular disease and diabetes prevention, treatment and risk factors among patients in 46 commercial managed care plans and 148 Medicare plans.

On most of the measures, women had equal or better outcomes than men.

However, women were up to 10 percent less likely than men to have their cholesterol levels under control. The researchers said the findings suggest that women and their doctors may underestimate women's risk for high cholesterol and heart disease, resulting in poorer cholesterol control.

"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," Dr. Ileana L. Pina, professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University, said in a prepared statement.

Pina is national spokesperson for Go Red for Women, an American Heart Association program designed to help women understand and manage their risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study also identified disparities associated with race and income level. For example, 55.4 percent of white men with recent cardiac events who were in commercial health plans met recommended lipid control levels, compared with 46.2 percent of white women, 44.8 percent of black men, and 34.2 percent of black women.

The study is published in the May/June issue of the journal Women's Health Issues.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about women and cardiovascular disease.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 14, 2007

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