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Men and women receiving different advice on heart disease

Posted on the 12th December 2022

Heart Disease

Doctors are more likely to prescribe lipid-lowering medication to men at risk of cardiovascular disease, whereas women are more likely to receive lifestyle advice, a new study has found.

This is despite there being no gender-specific guidance pertaining to heart disease prevention.

While previous studies have shown that women with heart problems receive less aggressive treatment than their male counterparts, researchers set out to investigate whether these discrepancies extended to the advice offered for the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

The investigation used data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), dating from 2017 to 2020.

Of 8,512 men and women aged between 40 and 79 with no history of cardiovascular disease, a validated risk calculator found 2,924 participants to be at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease, making them eligible to receive statin therapy.

Researchers calculated the odds of male and female patients being prescribed medication versus receiving lifestyle advice.

The analyses showed that, after adjusting for factors such as age, BMI, and risk of cardiovascular disease, men were 20% more likely to be prescribed statins than women.

Women were 27 per cent more likely than men to be advised to lose weight, and 38 per cent more likely to be advised to exercise.

In terms of dietary recommendations, women were 27 per cent more likely than men to be instructed to reduce their salt intake, and 11 per cent more likely to be prescribed low-calorie or reduced-fat diets.

The findings were presented at ESC Asia, a scientific congress organised by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), the Asian Pacific Society of Cardiology (APSC), and the Asean Federation of Cardiology (AFC). The study is yet to undergo peer review.

Study author Dr Prima Wulandari, a clinical researcher in cardiology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, says the results expose a misconception in the medical field that women have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than men.

“Our findings highlight the need for greater awareness among health professionals to ensure that both women and men receive the most up-to-date information on how to maintain heart health.”

Dr Mary McGowan, Chief Medical Officer of the Family Heart Foundation, emphasised that men and women should receive the same standard of advice and medical care in regards to disease prevention and risk-reducing measures:

“Failing to treat women aggressively with lipid-lowering therapy will result in increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” she said.

“Secondly, this study suggests that men are less likely to be offered lifestyle advice than women.”

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